A bulk of the recently signed SME guarantees by Equity Bank totaling Kshs 52.25 Billion will go towards supporting women-owned and led MSMES across Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC, Equity Group Holdings Managing Director and CEO Dr James Mwangi has said.
Speaking during the recently signed Kshs 8.25 billion agreement with the African Guarantee Fund, Dr Mwangi said the move is aimed at giving equal opportunity to men and women without discrimination while derisking the SME segment. This is also part of the bank’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Gender Equality on empowering all women and girls by using finance as a major catalyst to enable them to transform their lives and pursue their aspirations.
“There is an unconscious bias and this move is an affirmative action to ensure no gender is left behind. This speaks to a segment of the population that we consciously, deliberately, and intentionally need to be aware that it has been a disadvantage for a long time. We have taken a bold step to allow all to participate in any economic activity without discriminating.” Dr Mwangi said.
Other SME focused agreements signed by the bank since September include; a $50 million (Ksh 5.5 Billion) loan facility with IFC, a $100 million (Ksh 11.0 Billion) from PROPARCO in October, a EUR 125 million (Ksh 16.5 Billion) loan facility signed this month with the European Investment Bank, and lastly, a US $100 million (Kshs 11 Billion) loan facility with Team Europe, Germany’s DEG, the Netherlands FMO and the UK’s CDC Group all aimed at fortifying credit flows and liquidity to MSMEs.
Women-owned and led SMEs and the youth can access the funds through the Equitel menu, Equity branches, Eazzy Banking app, and through the USSD code by dialling *247#. The loans are segmented into different categories such as Fanikisha women suite of loan products that seeks to give women equal rights to economic resources, and the Kilimo Biashara that targets to support agriculture financing, Vijana loan meant to cater for the youth majority of whom have business ideas but lack conventional collateral, and the Biashara Imara facility provided as working capital to micro-customers with no conventional collaterals.
Also, the guarantee is expected to act as a stimulus for the private sector to quickly get on its feet and continue to offer livelihoods, employment opportunities, the market for farmers, manufactures and service providers.
It is also part of the bank commitment to strategically walk with MSMEs during the three years COVID-19 pandemic is expected to adversely affect the business operating environment because of the adoption of COVID-19 coping and containment measures.