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GroFin Ivory Coast client expands digital education reach

Ivory Coast is facing challenges in catering for a rapidly rising labour force, counting 14 million workers in 2015 and poised to rise to around 22 million by 2025. As more and more workers enter the emerging economy, the issue is not so much employment for everyone, as it is to guarantee a decent wage. Indeed, an average worker in Ivory Coast earns the equivalent of US$200 a month, lower than the average in sub-Saharan Africa.

It is here that vocational education has a crucial role to play in imparting usable skills to the youth, such that they are able to secure their future and deepen their contribution to the national economy. GroFin’s clientEcole des Spécialités Multimedia d’Abidjan (ESMA), is one such vocational education provider that is using our finance and support to expand the reach of digital education in Ivory Coast, with the ultimate objective of upskilling youth across the West African Economic and Monetary Union.

Founded in 2006, ESMA is the first private school specialised in multimedia across Francophone West Africa and focuses on the provision of quality education to post-graduate students in the field of digital communicationsmultimediaaudiovisual and web development.

Licensed and regulated by the Ivoirian Ministry of Superior Education, ESMA has a total of 39 classrooms with 39 permanent teachers and 34 permanent and contractual administrative staff. The school started with 75 students in 2006 and presently has two campuses with a total student population of 900. With the acquisition of a new campus in 2016, the school has increased its capacity and can now accommodate 3,000 students.

The key entrepreneur behind ESMA is Mr Doumbia Vakaba, who is a computer engineer and has more than 25 years’ experience in the field of digital mediaprintweb services and business management. Apart from ESMA, Mr Doumbia also runs Cevenol International Primary School, triggered by his concern for the education of both youthand children. Located in Gonzagueville, Port Bouët, a neighborhood where most residents hail from the lower class, Cevenol provides affordable and subsidised basic and primary education to around 450 pupils currently.

n 2017, Mr Doumbia approached GroFin for finance and support to both refinance an existing short-term loan for the acquisition of ESMA’s new premises as well as adequately equip classrooms in the new campus to allow the school to cater for more students. Upgrading ESMA’s capacity will also enable the school to cover a second target segment of students in the regional market of the UEMOA (West African Economic and Monetary Union) zone which does not have such elite schools to offer vocational training in visual communications and multimedia.

Based on GroFin’s finance and support, ESMA will be in a position to increase its student intake for the 2018 academic year to 1,100, then 1,300 in 2019 and finally 1,500 for 2020in the medium term alone. A suitable moratorium of upto 6 months has also been provided to give the client a leeway to build and operate the requisite infrastructurebefore repayment starts, to avoid stress on cash flow.

“GroFin understood our requirements for both a longer tenor loan as well as aligned repayments with our cash flows by providing a much-needed moratorium. Their finance and support will go a long way in helping us to reach our target long-term intake of 3,000 students who will benefit from superior education and contribute at full capacity to the economic growth of our country,” says Mr Doumbia.

Nigerian Banker turned Herbalist: The entrepreneur of Jim Products Limited

Nigerian banker-turned entrepreneur Mikail Jimoh is the founder and Managing Directorof Jim Products Limited (JPL). He worked in the banking industry for over 10 years before joining Anisere Herbal Consults to deepen his knowledge of herbal products prior to setting up JPL in 2001.

The business commenced production of herbal products in 2002 for sale and distribution in Nigeria and the West Africa Region. However, by late 2011, the factory and production facilities started showing visible strain. In June 2012, the company was supported by the GroFin Africa Fund (GAF) with a loan of N79m for building a new factoryreplacing equipment and financing working capital. The building has since been completed, equipment installed and made fully operational.

His experience with GAF having exceeded the entrepreneur’s expectations on all counts, it was little surprise that Mikail approached GroFin yet again in 2015 when he needed working capital finance to grow his company’s client base.

GroFin showed no hesitation in stepping in with a loan of N89m spread over 5 years under its SGB Fund, to give the highest possible financial boost to the entrepreneur.

Besides finance, GroFin Lagos Investment Manager Femi Salami assisted the client ably on the business support front, providing help for critical working capital aspects such as inventory managementcashflow management and financial management.

ESG compliance was also ensured by restricting staff movement in sensitive production areas and effective waste management within premises. Operations improvement was effected by putting an assets register and equipment maintenance logbook in place,” says Femi.

This investment will create an additional 10 jobs of which 8 will be semi-skilled or unskilled. It will also sustain 77 jobs of which 90% are semi-skilled or unskilled and 67% are female. Also, about 1,200 indirect jobs will be sustained by the existing 37 customersand 40 suppliers.

Finally, GroFin sees high impact from this investment as the client manufactures herbal healthcare products for teeth, skin and hair, thus considerably improving the health standards of his consumers. It may be noted that a significant percentage of the consumers hail from the bottom of the pyramid.

“What most conventional banks shy away from, remains the core business of GroFin – supporting SMEs,” concludes Mikail.

Ebony Clinic: Quality healthcare for South Africans with GroFin’s support

With an overwhelming majority of the population at 97.6% consisting of native South Africans, and only half the households having access to piped water, Kaalfontein in Johannesburg is a typical township that is struggling to cater for a high BoP population.

While townships are economically and politically significant in South Africa, they continue to lurk on the margins of neighbouring urban core economies, unable to attract much-needed private investment for essential services such as healthcare.

Kaalfontein found the answer to its prayers in Thabo Lewatle, an established entrepreneur with sound experience in managing peri-urban health clinics in South Africa, who founded Ebony Clinic in Kaalfontein in 2010.

Having run Ebony Clinic successfully for the last 6 years, Thabo wished to reach out to the community with a best-in-class maternity ward. With 31.7% of households in Kaalfontein being headed by females, the importance of maternal care cannot be emphasised enough.

By early 2016, having worked hard on getting the complex maternity building plans approved by the concerned authorities and committed considerable own capital towards the construction of a new maternity ward, Thabo needed a dedicated partner to provide the start-up expenses and initial working capital for the maternity ward’s operation.

GroFin provided both finance and support to make the maternity ward operational and help me realise my vision of providing affordable healthcare to expecting mothers in my community,” says Thabo.

On business support, the GroFin South Africa team identified areas of assistance on the occupational health and safety (OH&S)succession planning as well as administrative fronts.

Being a healthcare facility, the maternity ward poses significant risks such as exposure to infectiondiseasehazardous materials and waste for both patients and staff. GroFin is helping the entrepreneur implement a more robust OH&S plan. On the succession planning front, it was identified that a General Practitioner License is required in place of the current clinic license, with the team set to support the entrepreneur with placing either of the two other licensed doctors on the payroll as a license holder for the maternity ward. Finally, Medical Claim administration processes have also been identified as a business support area, since claims administration was so far being done by untrained staff. Based on GroFin’s assistance, a supervisor has been appointed and the Medical Claims software has also been upgraded.

With GroFin’s finance and support, Ebony Clinic reaches out to 19,000 patients each year and employs 15 members from the local community, sustaining multiple livelihoods in the Kaalfontein township.

Grand Care Hospitals Nigeria – Bringing Quality Private Healthcare to Port Harcourt

Entrepreneur Dr. Eke James Amuche is a happy man these days. A number of critical cases have been successfully treated at Grand Care Hospital (a private healthcare facility) in Bayelsa State with its recently purchased fully equipped ambulance and emergency equipment , which would not have been possible previously.

From a radiant warmer that has been used to resuscitate babies suffering from breathing difficulties after birth, to a 4D scanning machine that has enabled early detection of problems during pregnancy and even uncovered a severe cardio-myopathy in an 18-year old, Grand Care Hospitals is now closer to its objective of universal healthcare than ever before.

It was a chance meeting with a GroFin investment manager that finally led to the purchase of the radiant warmer, additional incubating machines and a 4D scanning machine to detect ectopic pregnancies, besides dentaloptical equipment and an ambulance handy for moving patients to bigger hospitals, all of which were sorely needed to resolve the increasing incidence of medical problems faced by the underserved Bayelsa community.

Incidentally, Bayelsa State ranks very low in terms of access to healthcare with a doctor to patient ratio of 1 to 7,000 against a WHO recommendation of 1 to 600.

Grand Care Hospitals was opened to the public in 2010 in Port Harcourt, and then relocated to Yenagoa in Bayelsa State in 2012.

Although significant strides were made to provide quality healthcare in Yenagoa in the early years of operation, Grand Care needed key equipment to make further inroads to improving access to emergency medical support.

Dr. Amuche turned to GroFin after being overwhelmed by a torturous feeling of helplessness as he watched a fifth patient in three months driving off in private transport to the teaching hospital at Ikoloibiri. An ambulance was desperately needed to ensure safe passage for emergency cases, but turning to traditional financiers did not seem to be a guaranteed solution.

The need for modern equipment to handle the complexity of medical problems the hospital was facing in Yenagoa finally drove the entrepreneur to seek finance from GroFinin 2016 to improve the equipment and buy an ambulance for Grand Care Hospitals. The new ambulance is equipped with an oxygen concentratorsuction machine100% oxygen cylinderambubagrespiratorcardiac defibrillatorstretcher and first aid box, all of which come in handy for moving patients to a bigger hospital.

And, the new ambulance could not have arrived more opportunely. Soon after Dr. Amuche received GroFin funding for the ambulance, a woman in the process of delivery was rushed to a neighbouring bigger medical facility with the new ambulance, upon developing complications that indicated the need for a major intestinal surgery.

In addition to the physical equipment, GroFin’s partnership with Grand Care includes the provision of expert business support services. Apart from assistance to formalise the administrative and financial management systems, Dr. Amuche has also been introduced to the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (PHCCIMA) for unprecedented access to market linkages.

Besides, the emergency equipment, the community has benefited from free dental and eye screening servicesAffordable and quality healthcare is becoming more and more available to the community surrounding Grand Care; thanks to Dr. Amuche’s vision, backed by GroFin’s investment and business support.

“We are seeing the fulfilment of our dream by providing quality health care for the emerging lower and middle class of Nigeria. GroFin has been the ideal partner for us to achieve this goal,” concludes Dr. Eke James Amuche.

Firm Foundation Ghana–GroFin Client and School of Choice

Firm Foundation Ghana has become the school of choice for parents in the catchment area and is consistently the top performing school in the Ga West area for the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE). An average of 25% of students that obtain their BECE at Firm Foundation continue their education through tertiary institutions.

The school’s student population had grown dramatically from an initial intake of 358 students in 2008 to 1,095 students in 2009. By the start of the school year in 2010, the student population had risen to 1,625, putting significant pressure on the school system and parents.

Selorm Abotsi is an example of a Grade 5 learner at Firm Foundation. Many of her school mates have had to endure a transport route that included a 30-minute walk from homefollowed by a 1-hour bus ride leaving them exhausted before they attended a single class. Rapid growth in the Ga West region was stretching the Firm Foundation facilities and the lack of transport infrastructure was limiting students’ capacity to learn due to the fatigue of the morning commute. These challenges led entrepreneur Michael Boakye Yiadom to seek the finance needed to extend the school’s facilities and provide transport to their students.

In 2011, Firm Foundation approached GroFin for funding to accelerate their facility expansions so that they could accommodate the demand for places from new students.Three buses were also purchased to overcome the transportation problems from remote areas. A loan of US$ 1.1M was used to pay off a bank loanpurchase the busescomplete a laboratorybuild a classroom block, a girl’s dormitory and provide seed capital for a secondary school. Besides the financial support, GroFin provided business support services, completely revamping the school management software and assisting to streamline operations. The innovative payment scheme has created an opportunity for parents to match their school fee payments with their income cycle thus helping to reduce bad debts and give access to private education to a greater number of families.

“Our partnership with GroFin has enabled us to reach new areas with quality education and open doors of opportunity for the next generation.” Michael Boakye Yiadom.

Since GroFin’s investment, the student population has increased by over 30%, growing from 1,625 students to 2,130 and the number of staff employed from 85 to 128. Revenues have risen from 700,000 to 1.2 million Ghanaian Cedi.

“Our relationship with GroFin has been very good. Without them, we wouldn’t have come this far,” says Mr. William Klormegah, the accountant of Firm Foundation Montessori Academy.

From an entrepreneurial pastime to a pioneering Nigerian fish farming business

Nigeria Delta State entrepreneur, Olusegun Ezekiel Wuraola is successfully growing his company Grandpa Agro-Allied Farms Ltd, which started as a pastime but has become a pioneering fish farming and fish feed business.

While managing his computer business successfully for 19 years, Olusegun began fish farming as a pastime by constructing a fish pond in his compound. Over a period of 3 years, he expanded with another 2 ponds and began to see the potential of fish farming and fish feed production as a more viable business model than computing. One of the key differences is the need to supply computing equipment on credit, while fish production tends to have a steady demand and is sold on a cash and carry basis. And so as from 2013, Olusegun began to seriously pursue fish farming and fish feed production as a business venture.

Titilayo, Olusegun’s wife has become a 40% shareholder in Grandpa. As a couple, they are a dynamic unit, holding 5 university degrees between them including an MBA each. Their obvious commitment to learning together with their systematic approach has led them to engage with local consultants in Nigeria as well as 3 research professors from Delta University in the USA who have helped them to develop their fish feed recipes.

The production site that is being developed by Olusegun is perfectly situated in a growing fish farming region. There are 3 clusters of farms within their delivery radius representing approximately 8000 farmers and a potential demand of over 400 000 bags of fish feed per month. Much of the fish feed consumed in the local market is imported and with the deterioration in the exchange rate, Grandpa is well positioned to displace imports with a high quality locally produced alternative.

GroFin’s investment with Grandpa is valued at just under US$70,000 and is being used to finance equipment for the production of fish feed and working capital. This will enable them to move from a manual intensive operation to a more mechanical system and will increase their capacity to 16 bags (15 kg each) per hour. An additional 8 jobs are being created through the expansion of Grandpa bringing the total employment to 17 of which 3 are women89% of all 17 jobs are addressing the base of pyramid unskilled labour force.

We are looking forward to seeing the new production facility come online and the social impact being realised through this well organised and disciplined fish farming entrepreneur.