Africa Business Communities

[East Africa Business Week] Bob Koigi: Investing in women-led businesses to deepen integration

East African member states, private sector players and development partners have stepped up their investment in women-led businesses and SMEs in a move likely to impact cross-border trade and boost integration in the region.  Such investments have bolstered the small trading in the region that has flourished under the one stop border posts.

The  latest is Bloomberg Philanthropies that recently partnered with CARE to expand existing Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) for agricultural funds in Tanzania, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The partnership will enable women who own small agriculture-based businesses to build capital and access credit to invest in and grow their businesses, ensuring long-term economic sustainability for themselves and their families.

This coming as World Bank announced that more than 250,000 micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Kenya are set to benefit from improved access to finance after being severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The Supporting Access to Finance and Enterprise Recovery (SAFER) project, financed by the International Development Association (IDA) will address market failures in access to finance by MSMEs (including youth and women-owned enterprises) that have been  negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the banking sector, Rwanda’s largest bank by assets and market share, Bank of Kigali recently went live on banking software platform Temenos for composable banking that will allow the bank to break free from legacy constraints and accelerate its digital transformation.

Bank of Kigali can now quickly expand its digital channels and engagement to deliver faster, smarter customer experiences. Powered by Temenos, Bank of Kigali aims to double its retail and SME customer base to over one million in the next year through increased automation and new digital services such as payroll loans and enhanced mobile offerings.

At the same time, Absa Bank Kenya Plc recently signed a Ksh1.25 billion Loan Portfolio Guarantee Facility with the African Guarantee Fund (AGF) to boost credit accessibility for local small businesses, including startups. The guarantee line will be in place for a period of five years and avails up to Ksh. 100 million in single borrower limit.

In addition to credit accessibility by local small businesses, the partnership, through AGF’s capacity development assistance, will enable Absa Bank Kenya to help small businesses enhance their business managerial capabilities in areas such as governance, human capital management, quality control, packaging, financial management and marketing. This will assist to scale up SME lending activities in situations where the target SME clients are unable to meet collateral threshold requirements.

And The government of Tanzania and the World Bank have signed two concessional loan agreements worth $650 million (about Sh1.501 trillion) for the improvement of education and land administration systems.

$500 million will be spent on the ‘Boost Primary Student Learning Project,’ while the remaining amount will go to the Land Tenure Improvement Project (LTIP), according to Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Finance and Planning, Mr Emmanuel Tutuba.

In the healthcare space, endoscope a manufacturer KARL STORZ has become the newest company to join IFC's Africa Medical Equipment Facility, IFC announced helping Africa's healthcare providers to further strengthen their services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

KARL STORZ's participation in the Africa Medical Equipment Facility (AMEF) will support smaller healthcare businesses in East and West Africa to purchase or lease medical equipment, including endoscopic equipment, in local currency. Endoscopy is a minimally invasive medical procedure that uses a long, thin, tube with a light and camera at one end to conduct diagnosis or specialized surgical procedures.

Elsewhere, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Rwanda, the Republic of Senegal, and the Republic of South Africa launched the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment campaign to restore progress against AIDS, TB and Malaria amid COVID-19 disruption.

Health financing technology platform M-TIBA has partnered with the Kenya Association of Private Hospitals (KAPH) in a bid to expand their healthcare financing capabilities.

The partnership took place at the KAPH convention meeting held at the Anderson Building (Nairobi Hospital) in Nairobi Kenya. The convention meeting kept its overall theme ‘Role of the private sector facilities in Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC).’ It provided a good platform for facility owners; doctors and other medical practitioners to interact with their colleagues, service providers and potential partners.

In tech, Equity Group, in partnership with Microsoft, has launched a virtual hackathon open to students from The University of Nairobi and Meru University of Science and Technology. The Hackathon, which opened for registration on 4th February, saw a total of 663 students from the two universities register to be among the 100 shortlisted participants to take part as innovators.

Finally MarketForce, the Nairobi-headquartered B2B platform for retail distribution of consumer goods and digital financial services in Africa, announced the closing of a $40 million Series A round, the largest Series A round of it’s kind in East and Central Africa. The raise comes 7 months after concluding a pre-Series A round.

Bob Koigi is the East African Region Editor at Africa Business Communities



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