IFC initiates push to support South African SMEs with FirstRand Bank
International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, has announced a loan of up to $200 million to FirstRand.
The transaction launches a broader program aimed at expanding SME lending and strengthen support for small and medium enterprises by the formal banking sector. IFC has designed the SME Push Program to channel up to $3 billion investment into South Africa SMEs over the next 5-7 years through a comprehensive package including investments, risk sharing facilities, and advisory services.
IFC developed the SME Push Program in South Africa to complement government policies aimed at expanding lending to small and medium enterprises and spur job creation in the country.
The SME Push Program aims to create partnerships with the country’s largest banks to significantly increase their lending to unserved and underserved segments of the SME market, which is the largest source of employment in the country.
FirstRand’s retail and commercial franchise, First National Bank (FNB), is a leading player in South Africa’s SME segment, with the strongest SME banking model and team in the sector. IFC advisory services will work with FNB to develop new tools to improve risk assessment in the SME sector, and also directly or indirectly build the capacity of SMEs with financial literacy training.
Andries du Toit, FirstRand Group Treasurer said, “FirstRand is committed to SME financing, as we recognise the key contributions smaller businesses make to economic growth and job creation in the country. The partnership with IFC is in line with the group’s continued support of developing the sector.”
Oumar Seydi, IFC Director for East and Southern Africa said, “IFC’s is committed to promoting the growth of SMEs to spur job creation at a time of economic uncertainty in South Africa, and globally. IFC welcomes this opportunity to work with FirstRand in its efforts to support SMEs, and build on a long-term strategic partnership that can increase access to finance IFC’s SME Push Program.”
Addressing the SME financing and development gap is a long term and complex undertaking. Large banks in South Africa can play a critical role in expanding SMEs by increasing their focus on the needs of this segments and improving products and services.