By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Experts have urged Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs to be formalized, having all legal, fiscal and labour formalities to build trust which will give them avenues to access finances for their businesses.
These experts were speaking during the third edition of the Nkafu Open Trade Initiative (NOTI) held this Thursday, November 25, 2021, at the Muna Foundation in Yaounde under the theme “Can AfCFTA boost Access to Credit for SMEs?”.
“90 per cent of businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa are SMEs who create a great impact on the economy. Despite this, they face difficulties accessing credit, Fri Asanga, Chief Executive Officer of the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation said in her opening remarks.
Lack of access to finance has been shown to have a significant, negative effect on employment growth in African SMEs. In addition to an enabling business environment, access to credit is critical to support intraregional trade.
“When we talk about access to credit, the core thing to have at the back of our minds is trust. If there is no trust, it will be difficult for a creditor to give out their money,” Dr Besong Agbor Joseph, Senior Financial Sector Specialist, World Bank Group, Yaounde said.
“Entrepreneurs need the information to improve their business. Hence, they must join associations, follow the media, grassroots institutions that can be channels for information to get to them.”
“Information dissemination is very important when it comes to helping SMEs access finance,” Ndzah Mokom, Managing Partner of StoneShed FX PLC said. “It is also very important for these SMEs to seek other means of financing apart from credit such as equity share.”
The main objective of the event was to provide a platform for high-level experts to discuss how the AfCFTA can boost access to credit. Specifically, discussions centred on; examining the current finance infrastructure in Africa; critically assessing how the AfCFTA will boost access to credit for SMEs; discussing the role of banks, angel investors, microfinance banks and institutional investors and outlining what strategies will democratize finance and increase access to SMEs.
According to Ndzah Mokom, “Banks cannot finance everyone as they do not have enough capital. Hence, they put in parameters of trust or what we call credit ratings.”
“You can have an SME that is legally formal, physically formal but financially informal. This makes access to credit difficult for them,” Dr Besong Agbor added.
The panellists at the end of the session also propose that a digital rating agency need to be created which will rate SMEs and the financial institutions need to have access to these ratings with ease. They also indicated that SMEs should be formalized, having all legal, fiscal and labour formalities to build trust.
AfCFTA has been signed by 54 out of the 55 African countries. As of 5 February 2021, 36 countries have deposited their instruments of ratification, while more than 36 countries have ratified the AfCFTA agreement.
The new market, created under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is estimated to be as large as 1.3 billion people across Africa, with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion. This has the potential of lifting 30 million Africans out of extreme poverty, according to the World Bank.
“This is not just a trade agreement, this is our hope for Africa to be lifted from poverty,” said Wamkele Mene, the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat. It is also expected to boost intra-African trade, promote industrialization, create a job, and improve the competitiveness of African industries on the global stage.