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SMEs secure collateral free loans — Access Bank disburses GH¢50m to 6,500 firms

BY: Maxwell Akalaare Adombila

ACCESS Bank Ghana Limited has disbursed more than GH¢50 million to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the past two years without asking for collateral as guarantee against default.

The funds were disbursed to more than 6,500 firms across the country under the bank’s collateral-free loan scheme.

Introduced in 2020 as part of the Access Bank/Graphic Business SME Clinic initiative, the facility allows SMEs to access the bank’s tailor-made funding and the accompanying technical advice without having to scale over the collateral hurdle, which is a major constraint for businesses seeking bank loans.

The Group Head of Business at Access Bank, Kafui Bimpe, who disclosed this to the GRAPHIC BUSINESS on September 10, added that customer response to the product has been positive, as many businesses took advantage of it to expand their operations.

He said the facility was also disbursed with speed to enable businesses with urgent need to address them on time.

The move by the bank breaks the myth and negative perception about SMEs, which has long been deemed as risky by a category of business people.

Default rate

He told the paper, ahead of the SME Clinic that will be held tomorrow at Sekondi/Takoradi in the Western Region, that repayment was also positive, with the product recording zero default rates most of the time.

“I must say that in most cases, we had zero default rates because we train them, build their capacity and we are also closer to them, and so we track them on a daily basis.

“These have improved their managerial skills and given them capacity to scale up,” he said.

Funding constraint

Beyond the cost of funding, access to credit has remained a top two constraint holding down the growth of businesses in the country and Africa in general.

The Business Barometer Survey of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) has consistently revealed that access to and cost of credit continue to lead in the list of challenges facing businesses.

For SMEs, it is worse. As lenders seek quality for their costly funds, they often see SMEs as second choices, given their fragility and lack of experience in pitching for funding.

SME gap

The World Bank said in a 2019 report that the SME funding gap in Ghana was around 13 per cent, equivalent to US$6.1 billion, in 2017.

“SMEs in Ghana face higher credit constraints as banks lend to a limited number of firms, prioritising large borrowers.

“Many small firms are not profitable enough to be able to repay loans at the current market rates and tenors,” the bank said in the report.

The constraint is in spite of the fact that SMEs constitute about 90 per cent of businesses in the country and account for about 70 per cent of total economic output measured by gross domestic product (GDP).

Solutions

To help address the challenges and unlock their potential, Mr Bimpe said Access Bank came up with the collateral free loan to make it easier for the firms to access funding for expansion.

Mr Bimpe explained that the lending was done against cashflows, with keen interest placed on the character of the firm involved and its management executives.

Benefits

He said the collateral free loan scheme was part of the bank’s resolve to give adequate support to SMEs through funding, technical expertise and platforms, to realise their full potential.

He said that resolve led to the signing of the partnership agreement with the Graphic Group, the biggest media house, to implement the SME Clinic, which also features regional workshops for SMEs nationwide.

Since the launch of the partnership, which allows the bank to pool technical expertise to support the businesses, Mr Bimpe said more SMEs have improved on their operations.

Theme

Tomorrow’s event is the third in the series of the regional capacity workshops meant to sharpen the skills of the businesses.

It is organised by Access Bank and the Graphic Communications Group Limited, publishers of the Graphic Business, the lead business read, to support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to develop into bigger businesses.

It will be on the theme: ‘Unlocking the potential of SMEs through digitalisation.’

The event will also be available to online participants through Zoom and the social media handles of the bank and graphic - www.facebook.com/accessmoreghana or www.facebook.com/dailygraphicghana.

Launched in Accra, the clinic has been held in Kumasi with an SME Fair last year and now in Takoradi.

Speakers

The organisers of the clinic have carefully assembled people with varied expertise to share their knowledge and experience on the day.

They are; Abigail Padi, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Accounting and Finance, Faculty of Business Studies, Takoradi Technical University; Ebenezer Ato Yawson, Chief Information Security and AML Officer, IT Consortium and Rebecca Odro, Chief Executive Officer of Akroma Plaza and astute entrepreneur.

The Guest Speaker, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana Business School, Professor Godfred Alufa Bokpin, will speak on the topic: “Levers for SME growth in today’s Economy.”

Access Bank’s Group Head of Business said his outfit expected about 200 SMEs from Takoradi and its environs to be present at the venue, where various experts will take them through ways to enhance their businesses using digitalisaton.

He said thousands would also join via the social media links to profit from the enriched technical discussions and capacity building workshops.