13 November 2017

Rwanda: New Initiative Seeks to Ease SME Access to Finance

More small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) could find it easy to access affordable finance, thanks to a new initiative by Entrepreneurial Solutions Partners (ESPartners), an entrepreneurship support organisation.

La Finance s'Engage Rwanda will seek to improve access to funding by small businesses, according to the firm's officials. In 2016, a similar initiative raised about $2 billion from financial institutions to support SMEs in West Africa, particularly Ivory Coast.

The initiative, according to Didier Acouety, the executive president AfricSearch is aimed at mobilising the private sector to find concrete and innovative solutions for SMEs financing. Acouety added that many studies have highlighted a financing and skills gaps for the 'missing middle' of SMEs in frontier markets.

"The new partnership will, therefore, help in the understanding of the gap and offer the financial sector a platform to come together and provide innovative financing solutions," he told The New Times in an exclusive interview in Kigali last week.

The initiative is set for launch at the SME and Banking Africa forum that opens today in Kigali.

Formed in Ivory Coast by private sector players and partners like the African Development Bank, La Finance s'Engage mobilises the private sector to offer concrete solutions for the financing.

According to Sidonie Gwet, the senior associate at ESPartners, access to finance remains one of the major constraints to business growth despite Rwanda's consistent positive economic outlook.

He added that the partnership with the SME and Banking Africa Forum for this first edition in Rwanda offers local SMEs a huge opportunity to establish linkages with bankers and ease access to finance.

The Rwanda edition of La Finance s'Engage is, therefore, expected to raise the required funds that will help mitigate some of the challenges currently facing the sector, Gwet said.

The partnership will be launched on the second day of the SME and Banking Africa forum scheduled for this week in Kigali. The three-day forum is an annual event that has become a "pivotal stepping-stone for many SMEs in Africa". It will attract more than 500 high-growth SMEs, 100 financiers, policy-makers and over 50 experts in SME development from around the world, organisers said.

The annual forum also focuses on transferring tangible skills through high level master classes led by experts as well as introducing business owners to SME-leaning financiers.

Acouetey said the organisation previously undertook many impactful engagements, including supporting entrepreneurs with strategies and operation upgrades, that support growth and sustainability.

"These interventions are in line with the SMEs and Banking forum that is seeking to spur the growth of Africa enterprises," he added.

Claudette Niyitegeka, a Kigali-based supplier of horticulture produce, welcomed the initiative, saying it is a "timely intervention that will help SMEs become more profitable and competitive".

The government targets 200,000 off-farm jobs per year by 2018 under the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II). It is counting on SMEs to realise this objective and to increase the country's export targets.

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