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Gold Box: A small business baking it big

I have always been entrepreneurially minded and when my spouse started developing an entrepreneurial spirit in 2014, I knew something good was in the offing for us.

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Jordan SME grows while rebuilding lives of Syrian refugees

Arabella for Aluminium provides employment opportunities to refugees in one of Jordan’s poorest governates.

Former lawyer, Mohamed Darwish, is lucky to have a job on Arabella’s factory floor. Darwish is one of the estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees presently living in Jordan. His family may have escaped the death and destruction of war when they fled from Aleppo in Syria, but building a new life is not easy.

With close to a third of Jordan’s private sector labour force employed by SMEs, the sector has a crucial role to play in addressing the refugee crisis. And with Arabella located just a few kilometres away from the Zaatari Refugee Camp in the Governate or Irbid, this SME offers a rare employment opportunity at a decent wage to both Syrians and local workers.

Under the Nomou Programme, Arabella is a GroFin Jordan SME client that specialises in aluminum extrusion, fabrication, decoration, and surface treatment & coating. In 2015, GroFin provided the company with financing to purchase equipment and complete infrastructure work at its new production site. But only a few months after it started operations, an unexpected halt in production could easily have seen the business fail.

When cracks appeared in three of the company’s extrusion press containers – which are crucial to its production process – it had no choice but to halt operations. Two of the containers were shipped to Thailand for repairs and while the third was repaired locally, the process still took several months.

Arabella was soon unable to meet its obligations to GroFin and would have defaulted under a traditional financing framework – likely forfeiting its assets and going under. However, GroFin’s model provides room to adapt its financing to the needs of the client and was able to devise an alternative payment plan to allow Arabella to overcome this difficult period.

“Not all business support is about increasing sales and revenue. It is also about helping the client to survive and overcome tough times.”

Wael Sunna, Investment Manager at GroFin Jordan, says small and medium-sized businesses are extremely vulnerable to shocks and the ability to overcome such unexpected setbacks is key to their survival. “Not all business support is about increasing sales and revenue. It is also about helping the client to survive and overcome tough times,” Sunna explains.

GroFin has also provided Arabella with further advice to improve its cash flow through negotiating better payment terms with suppliers and improving collections from clients through shorter payment terms. In 2017, GroFin provided the company with additional funding needed to boost its stock of aluminum pellets to meet higher demand for its products.

With GroFin’s support, Arabella has been able to continuously increase its production and sales. At the end of 2018, the company employed 84 workers, compared to 49 a year before, 20% of whom are Syrians. Arabella continues to grow and is expanding its production facilities even further through the addition of a new furnace for processing scrap aluminum.

“GroFin became our partner when banks refused our loan applications. In the beginning we were short of experience, but we found all the support we needed in GroFin.”

Mr. Sobhi Al Zubi, the entrepreneur behind Arabella, says he will never forget GroFin’s support and loyalty to his business. “GroFin became our partner when banks refused our loan applications. In the beginning we were short of experience, but we found all the support we needed in GroFin. They were there to help us with everything from planning to marketing and sales,” he says.

Sobhi says perseverance and determination were crucial to his success.

“I am always positive, despite the setbacks. I always keep looking forward – never back. You have to feel successful on the inside, then even people who start from nothing can become successful.”

Learn more about the The Nomou Programme and GroFin funding and business support for entrepreneurs and SMEs in the Middle East.

Nigerian entrepreneur paints it forward


Successful paint dealer now trains women to start their own businesses

My vision for the company is to become the leading coating company in the country and to create jobs for thousands of Nigerians.

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Facing Jordan’s SME challenges & growing in frozen food market

Small and medium-sized businesses employ around a third of Jordan’s private-sector labour force. Yet, World Bank Enterprise Survey data shows that nearly 49% of small and 33% of medium-sized businesses in the country still cite access to finance as a major constraint to their growth.

GroFin allowed Al-Mutamayeza for Frozen Food Trading, which trades under the name Saboba, to overcome this challenge by providing the business with three successive rounds of financing. The company distributes high-quality frozen and processed meat and poultry products. Thanks to GroFin’s investments and continued business support it was able to expand into new geographical regions in Jordan, venture into new market segments and broadened its product range.

Raed and Mohammad Saboba founded the company bearing their name in 2007 in Zarqa, Jordan. They first approached GroFin in 2013 to finance the purchase of additional inventory to expand the distribution network of the business. GroFin also supported Saboba in the formalisation of its business plan and financial projections, equipping the entrepreneurs to monitor progress against the forecasted plan to better identify areas of improvement.

As Saboba grew, GroFin continued to work closely with the business to optimise its product range and pricing, as well as its brand positioning and marketing reach. In 2015, GroFin encouraged Saboba to explore new markets and provided the business with financing to introduce new products targeting hotels, restaurants and catering companies. In response to GroFin’s advice to diversify its product range, Soboba later obtained additional financing to acquire the right to distribute a global brand of powdered milk and other dairy products in Jordan.

Due to the success and improved profitability the company has achieved since partnering with GroFin, Saboba has acquired new premises and its brand is now well-known in Jordan.

“GroFin’s financial and business support resulted in extending our geographical coverage, increasing our number of products from 12 to 25, hiring new employees, and growing sales by over 15% annually,” says Raed Saboba, co-owner of the business.

Saboba currently employs 35 workers, compared to 21 at the time of GroFin’s first investment. However, the company’s growth has not only allowed it to create new job opportunities, but also to enhance the life and careers of its employees. Wafaa Tom is a female employee who joined Saboda in 2016 and heads up the company’s finance department.

“The growth in the company’s operations impacted my knowledge and enriched my career as I am currently dealing with bigger transactions related to a number of reputable customers.”

Alaa Al Faqeer, another female employee at Saboba, says she struggled to find a job with a decent salary as she did not have any tertiary education. All of this changed when a friend encouraged her to apply for a job at Saboba.

“Saboba paid for my tuition to enrol at university and I received a degree in Accounting, which helped me to further develop my career. When I got engaged, Saboba also generously participated in my wedding expenses, as my husband and I could not fulfil all of them,” she says.

GroFin Jordan - SabobaGroFin Jordan - SabobaGroFin Jordan - Saboba

At a mere 14.4%, the World Bank points out that Jordan’s female labour force participation rate is the lowest in the world for a country not at war. This is despite the fact that women comprise more than half of Jordanian university graduates. Gender discrimination in hiring practices contributes to this number, as well as to the country’s high female unemployment rate of nearly 24%. With GroFin’s support, Saboba has empowered Tom and Al Faqeer to overcome these barriers.

Rwanda woman entrepreneur lifts local community out of poverty

Agasaro Organic helps local farmers by adding value to their produce

Pineapples grow easily in the fertile soil of the Nyamasheke District in Rwanda’s Western province. But with the fruit in such high supply during the harvest season and no local means available to process it, farmers here have always struggled to get a decent price for their produce.

As in the rest of the country, agriculture is the main source of income for many households. The Rwandan economy may boast a low unemployment rate, but national labour statistics show that over 60% of the country’s workers are in fact self-employed in the agricultural sector. These subsistence farmers typically have little control over the prices they are paid for their produce and so remain trapped by poverty. Women are also most likely to bear the brunt of poverty as, according to Oxfam, they head close to a third of agricultural households and provide almost two thirds of the labour on family farms.

Agasaro Organic is helping to change this for the 552 farmers in Nyamasheke who now act as its contracted suppliers, Agasaro is a woman-owned business which processes pineapple, maracuja, strawberry, honey and other agricultural products to make organic juices and biscuits.

Agasaro not only offers farmers fair pricing, but also assists them with training and fertilisers to improve their yield. Sindayigaya John (33), a pineapple farmer who employs 25 workers to work his land, says working with Agasaro has allowed him to earn more than double the income he did when he sold his fruit at local markets:

“Working with Agasaro has improved our lives. My two children are now going to a better school and I am paying my employees’ salaries on time, which has also improved their lives. My vision is to one day also start a business like Agasaro.”

Isimwe Noella (26), also farms pineapples with her parents and five brothers. The family supplies three tons of fruit to Agasaro every week to earn around Rwf1,500,000. Before they could only make Rwf200,000 to 300,000 at local markets:

“The quality of my crops has also improved because of the assistance and fertilisers which Agasaro provides us. Working with Agasaro has financially transformed our lives at home,” Noella says.

While Agasaro’s were increasing steadily, inadequate packaging equipment was limiting its ability to increase production. In 2017, a lack of packaging materials even started to impede sales growth. Agasaro and other Rwandan manufactures previously relied on imports from Kenya to obtain plastic packaging. But stringent new Kenyan legislation banned the use of manufacturing of certain types of plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging.

Isabelle Uzamukunda, the owner and managing director of Agasaro, approached GroFin for working capital to finance the purchase of new packaging machines to help address this shortage. As part of its business support offering, GroFin assisted Uzamukunda in the selection of appropriate packaging machines and helped her to review her business plan.

Uzamukunda says the financing and support she has received from GroFin has helped to increase Agasaro’s sales and staff complement:

“Before receiving GroFin’s support my monthly sales were never above Rwf20.2 million. Now my current turnover stands at Rwf29 to 30 million. I had 16 staff members, but now my team has grown to 26 employees.”

Ntwali Victor (34) is one of these new employees. Victor tried to support his wife and child by doing casual or temporary jobs before he started working as an electrician at Agasaro a year ago. His wife couldn’t find permanent work either but earning a steady salary has helped to change that too:

“I paid for my wife to complete technical school and now she has a small sewing business. I can pay my rent on time, pay for medical services and send my child to a better school. We were two jobless people at home – now one of us has a permanent job and the other a business to run.”

GroFin has also assisted the business with networking and market identification and Uzamukunda says this has helped Agasaro to qualify for grants from different donors:

“I have the contract for a $199,000 grant for the construction of a modern plant in-hand and signed. This is all because of GroFin’s financial support and business advice which have taken me to another level as a businesswoman.”

Former President Jakaya Kikwete visits Binti Africa Clothing Workshop

Former president Jakaya Kikwete has urged Tanzanians to support the local fashion industry and praised local fashion houses for producing high-quality clothing of international standards.

Mr Kikwete made these remarks during a recent visit to Binti Africa in February, the fashion house from which he has been buying his vintage African print shirts since his presidential tenure. Binti Africa specialises in the production of clothing from African textiles. It is the only fashion house styling the officials of the Tanzanian Government, with the current vice president of Tanzania, Honorable Samia Hassan Suluhu, among its clients.

Mr Kikwete was very impressed by Binti Africa’s workshop and the creativity and quality of its current designs. He congratulated Johari Sadiq, fashion designed and CEO, on being self-employed and for producing top-quality clothing which can compete in the global market.

Johari Sadiq, CEO of Binti Africa and GroFin Tanzania Entrepreneur

Johari Sadiq, CEO of Binti Africa and GroFin Tanzania Entrepreneur

Mrs Sadiq founded Binti Africa in 2009 at the age of only 23, but with no business background or experience in the fashion industry she struggled to access finance to grow the business. The ILO Women Entrepreneurs Survey 2014 revealed that 85% of women interviewed in Tanzania financed their start-ups from their own savings, mainly due to high interest rates and collateral requirements. It also indicated that access to business development services (BDS) is crucial for women entrepreneurs to strengthen their capacity to start, effectively manage and grow their business.

But Mrs Sadiq’s passion for fashion led her to persevere and 2016 she obtained the finance she needed to set up a modern factory from GroFin, a pioneering private development financial institution which specialises in financing and supporting small and growing businesses across Africa and the Middle East. GroFin provided Binti Africa with funding to acquire modern equipment and high-quality fabrics which enabled it to create the exquisite garments it has become known for.

“My advice to other women entrepreneurs is to never be afraid of failure. Massive failure leads to massive success. Take risks, be open to learning lessons and take criticism well. Believe in yourself, because what a man can do, a woman can do just as well,” Mrs Sadiq said about her journey as a women entrepreneur during an interview with GroFin last year.

Biotitiale shows small business can share in Ivory Coast mining boom

It is no secret that Africa needs to add much greater value to the metals and minerals extracted by the continent’s mining sector. Commentators often highlight the need to attract foreign investment to help move Africa up the value chain by building the capacity to process the commodities it currently exports.

Extracted by the continent’s mining sector. Commentators often highlight the need to attract foreign investment to help move Africa up the value chain by building the capacity to process the commodities it currently exports.

Yet, the important role that locally-owned small and medium-sized businesses can play in not only processing what mines produce, but also providing them crucial services, is easily overlooked. Biotitiale, an Ivorian consulting firm providing laboratory testing and analysis, has proven how access to finance and support can help small businesses to benefit from growth in an industry dominated by large players.

Biotitiale was founded in 2012 by Dr. Kossonou Yao Kamele to service mines in Côte d’Ivoire and the surrounding region. Holder of a Doctorate (PhD) in Food Science and Technology, Dr. Kamele spent seven years working for well-known companies, but was inspired by a passion for entrepreneurship to start Biotitiale.

The firm is dedicated to qualityenvironmenthygienesafety and health test and analysis. Biotitiale provides these services to help its clients to reduce risks, streamline processes and improve the sustainability of their operations. Its laboratory performs quality testing and analysis on a wide variety of substances including source and waste waterfoodstuffs, and soil and rocks. Biotitiale also provides training to help its clients to comply with environmental management and audit standards to meet ISOQHST and SST standards (Quality-Health-Safety-Environment).

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Côte d’Ivoire posted impressively high economic growth since 2012,  when political turmoil in the country began to recede and the business environment improved. Biotitiale was well-positioned to take advantage of this upswing, as well as a boom in the country’s mining industry after the implementation of a new mining code in 2014. Although the company secured contracts with large miners, its much larger competitors still hold the lion’s share in the market for laboratory and testing services in Côte d’Ivoire. This is not least because the industry is extremely capital intensive.

By 2017, Biotitiale had established a strong client base, but a shortage of capital to purchase new equipment was holding the business back. GroFin provided the company with financing to purchase new high-end laboratory equipment, which has greatly improved turnaround times and helped Biotitiale to gain additional market share.

The new equipment means that the Biotitiale’s laboratory can now perform between 300 and 500 sample analyses per day. Before this would have taken an entire week. This improved capacity means the firm can keep better pace with demand from the fast-growing mining industry, while GroFin’s business support has also helped Biotitiale to win new clients in other sectors through improving marketing.

The World Bank expects the Ivorian economy to grow by 7.3% during 2019 – which will keep it among the top performers in the Sub-Saharan region. Côte d’Ivoire’s Chamber of Mines also expects the mining sector to continue its expansion to contribute 5% of the country’s GDP by 2020. But at the same time, the IMF has pointed out that despite impressive economic growth in recent years, poverty level in Côte d’Ivoire has remained stubbornly high. The need to grow and ensure the sustainability of small businesses to boost job creation, therefore remains urgent.

Biotitiale has not only created and sustained much-needed jobs, but also continues to make a positive contribution to the growth of the Ivorian mining sector. Its services help mines to ensure the health and safety of their workers and to protect nearby communities and the natural environment.

Bugesera Agribusiness: Impacting bottom of the pyramid farmers in Eastern Rwanda

Opening a large business in an area where almost 50 percent of the population live below the poverty line might deter some of the hardiest business people, not so Mr. Christophe Kanyandekwe, owner of Bugesera Agribusiness Company Ltd, also known as BABC.

A mechanical engineer, Mr. Kanyandekwe bought BABC which is located in Gashora, Bugesera district, Eastern Province of Rwanda, in 2014. Prior to his acquisition the company which started operations in 2008 was run by a farming cooperative called Indakuki Cooperative. When Mr. Kanyandekwe bought the factory, he retained the 328 members of the Indakuki Cooperative as suppliers of maize kernels, as he did not want the members to lose their livelihoods.

Today BABC is the largest agribusiness in Eastern Province and it has supply contracts with 86 cooperatives who represent approximately 70,000 farmers. In a province struggling to deal with poverty and with people thinking about how they will put food on the table, companies like BABC provide a lifeline. Each of the farmers that supply the company through their cooperatives are at the very least assured of having a captive market for their products. As many Rwandan farmers are at the bottom of the pyramid, agri-businesses like Bugesera Agribusiness encourage local farmers to see farming as a viable enterprise.  This is important in a country where agriculture is a mainstay for thousands of families.

In the first quarter of this year, according to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwandaagriculture contributed 31 percent to the country’s GDPAgriculture is expected to play a vital role in reducing poverty and ensuring the country is self-sufficient in its nutrition needs.

Mr. Kanyandekwe is also a shrewd businessman in that he finds reliable buyers for his products. One of these buyers is Africa Improved Food Ltd., a company who is taking the fight against malnutrition in Africa head on. BABC signed a contract with the company to provide them with 600 to 1500 tons of soy beans a year for the next three years.

As BABC grew it found itself in need of finance and in GroFin it found a partner willing to help. GroFin, which has made a name for itself investing in small growing businesses(SGBs) has agribusiness as a sector of focus  across sub-Saharan Africa and MENA. Another large Rwandan agribusiness that GroFin supports is Yak Fair Trade. Therefore, partnering with a company like BABC made sense for GroFin. The financing allowed BABC to purchase new equipmentbuy additional raw materials and expand its warehousing capability. In addition to the financing the GroFin Rwanda team provided business support to BABC, which started pre-finance, when the company was advised to properly register its assetsPost finance the company received help on how to better structure its sales and marketing strategy. Additionally, advice was provided on production process automation, improvement of packaging system, and looking into export possibilities. To further help BABC, GroFin Rwanda will introduce BABC to PUM experts who will be providing advice on product certification.

Through GroFin’s finance and business support, BABC is able to sustain 62 permanent jobs of which 24 are held by women and 51 are low skilled/semi-skilled.

“Thanks to GroFin, I was able to expand capacity and make a greater impact in our province of Eastern Rwanda. I think agribusinesses in Rwanda must not hesitate to invest in our agricultural sector.” – Christophe Kanyandekwe

Giving Tanzania women entrepreneurs their place in the sun

GroFin Rwanda deepens agribusiness reach in East Africa