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GroFin supports SMEs through COVID-19 crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a severe impact on economic activity and small businesses are bearing the brunt of this crisis in both developed and developing countries.

GroFin finances small businesses in some of the world’s most vulnerable economies. We are hard at work to increase the resilience of these communities as they deal with the fallout of the outbreak.

Our model has always centred on providing entrepreneurs with continuous support and advice. We realise that it is even more crucial than ever before during an unprecedented crisis like this. As such, we have taken several measures to continue assisting our clients despite the challenges presented by the virus and are responding as follows:

Ensuring we can continue servicing SMEs

The health and safety of GroFin’s staff and clients are our highest priority. We ensured a safe working environment for staff across our markets by implementing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) measures to limit the possibility of infection. The majority of GroFin staff is working from home and we plan to extend this to all staff within the next week. All our core business platforms are available remotely so that we can continue operating and engaging with our clients using digital platforms.

Advising SMEs on measures against the spread of COVID-19

We have also focused on helping our clients to minimise contagion risk to their own employees and customers. GroFin’s Impact team developed a COVID-19 Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) framework, drawing on international best practise on this lifesaving issue. This ESG framework has been shared with our clients and the GroFin Investment team is providing them with support and advice to implement the measures it recommends.

Providing support to our clients

Unlike commercial lenders, we decided not to take a portfolio approach to assess the impact of the outbreak on our investees. In line with our focus on providing entrepreneurs with continuous support, we developed a toolkit to assess the disruption and impact on key business elements of each SME in our portfolio.

We believe this will allow GroFin to use our expertise to provide appropriate advice to each entrepreneur, while also giving us a view on the viability of each business during and after disruptions to their operations. The outcomes of this assessment will determine our actions to be taken per client. Where available, we will also link our investees to local relief options like government support.

As an organisation working with SMEs in some of the most challenging markets, we have always been amazed and inspired by the resilience, determination and ingenuity of the entrepreneurs who are our clients. They will need all these qualities to overcome this crisis but can rest assured that GroFin will be there to support them throughout it.

Brienne van der Walt

Chief Executive Officer, GroFin

GroFin Nigeria supports women entrepreneurs to ‘step up and scale up’

GroFin Nigeria (Lagos) recently hosted nearly 90 women entrepreneurs at a capacity building workshop in Lagos. The event formed part of GroWoman, GroFin’s Gender Lens Investing Initiative, and focused on equipping women entrepreneurs in business planning and strategy. Women empowerment is one of GroFin’s core impact objectives.

GroFin hosted the event in partnership with Sheba Centre, a GroFin client and events management company. Omolara Adelusi, the owner of Sheba Centre, shared her entrepreneurial journey and encouraged other women entrepreneurs “to step up and scale up” their businesses.

Women entrepreneurs from various sectors including agro-processing, education, healthcare, retail, and manufacturing attended the event and were inspired by its theme of ‘Breaking the Myth’ around gender roles which assume that women cannot – or should not – venture into the business world.

Bisi Onim, executive director and COO at FundQuest Financial Services, and Tope Orolu, managing director at TIS Capital & Advisory, spoke on the role of a business plan in a thriving business. The speakers encouraged entrepreneurs to develop their business plans holistically.

The learning sessions included practical guides to business planning which some of the participants even described as an “abridged MBA”. Attendees also testified to have garnered more knowledge on sustaining their business, building a proper structure as well as implementing the right strategies for business growth.

“The facilitators made the business plan very easy to digest. I am going to run my business as a system and leverage on resources outside of my immediate environment. I will further develop my business plan and would love to have more information on subsequent events of this nature.” said one attendee.

GroFin’s mission is aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls) through its focus on women–led businesses and women employment. GroFin has supported over 122 women-owned businesses and 30% of the jobs our investments sustain are held by women.

GroFin is partnering with the International Trade Centre (ITC) in SheTrades Invest, an initiative to increase investment in women-owned businesses in the countries where we operate. The SheTrades initiative aims to connect three million women to market by 2021. In addition, GroFin works with the Vital Voices Programme to help women entrepreneurs lead positive change in their communities. GroFin sponsored 12 clients for the VV GROW Fellowship, a highly competitive one-year accelerator program for women who own small or medium-sized businesses.

If you are a woman entrepreneur looking to grow your business, learn more about GroFin’s financing and business support. Or speak directly with a GroFin representative at one our local offices for more information.

GroFin and Shell Foundation: Harnessing technology for SME finance

From mobile money to blockchain and data analytics, fintech is not only disrupting the way corporate financial institutions operate, it also presents far-reaching opportunities for social enterprises and development finance institutions to strengthen their impact and efficiency.

Shell Foundation (SF) supports innovators to test new technology and enterprise models to help overcome two major global development challenges: access to energy and access to affordable transport. Its portfolio includes both social enterprises as well as market enablers – like GroFin – that accelerate the growth of proven sectors.

SF, a UK registered charity, has supported GroFin since its inception in 2004, when the two organisations came together to develop a unique model that combines finance and support to grow SMEs and drive inclusive economic growth. In line with SF’s focus to support businesses and intermediaries capable of delivering social change at scale, it also assisted GroFin in two projects aimed to enable the company to better leverage technology and increase the efficiency of its growing operations.

Mairi Tejani, Head of SME Growth at Shell Foundation, says financial technology innovations create a unique opportunity to redefine the SME lending ecosystem.

“We remain committed to supporting initiatives that increase the efficiency of the SME finance sector in emerging markets, and are pleased to partner with GroFin to test the use cases for financial technology innovations in SME funds.”

Increased efficiency

GroFin provides financing and business support to SMEs in 14 countries throughout Africa and the Middle East and has invested in over 700 businesses. The ability to provide effective business support to its clients is integral to GroFin’s business model. This requires the company to accurately capture and analyse financial and other data gathered from these SME businesses, or created through its transactions with them.

Until recently, GroFin relied on various internal systems and manually extracted the data it needs for analysis and reporting – a process which was both time-consuming and error prone. With Shell Foundation’s support, GroFin enlisted Altron Karabina, a specialist in helping companies digitally transform using the Microsoft platform, to develop a data warehouse and business analytics platform.

The data warehouse allowed GroFin and Karabina to develop automated reporting templates, eliminating the need to manual collate and update data for reporting purposes and greatly improved efficiency. For example, the project has allowed GroFin to slash the time spent on collating certain data for creating quarterly reports for investors from about two weeks to mere minutes.

GroFin is now using its own internal resources to extend the infrastructure and functionality created during the project to create a wider range of automated reports. Since the completion of the project, GroFin has already published more than 60 automated reports. The automation of reporting processes is freeing up time and resources within GroFin’s investment team, allowing them to spend less time on verifying figures and conduct the analysis needed to manage their portfolios and support their clients better.

A digital solution to capturing data

The need to maintain an efficient system of collecting data that is complete, accurate and auditable also led SF to provide GroFin with support to test and pilot a blockchain platform from BanQu, a US based, blockchain solutions provider. GroFin tested the use of a digital platform using distributed ledger technology (DLT) as a more effective and convenient means for its clients to submit the data required from them.

Philippa Massyn, IST Executive at GroFin, says the pilot project showed the great potential for development finance institutions and others engaged in impact investing to use digital platforms to collect data in the field.

“The project showed that a digital platform can not only make it easier for SMEs to submit their data, it can also be used to generate key insights through analytics.  We believe that if SMEs see this immediate benefit to submitting their data, they will be incentivised to submit again and on time.”

Serving SMEs better

Ashraf Esmael, Chief Development Officer at GroFin, says exploring new ways to capture and analyse data from SMEs, can make an important contribution to the development of the sector.

“Small businesses are vulnerable to shocks and therefore need to identify changing trends early on. The ability to capture and analyse data quicker and more effectively will help GroFin to provide better and more timely support to SMEs, and to do this more efficiently.”

Ryan Jamieson, CTO at Altron Karabina, says the company is excited to work with organisations like GroFin which have both an economic and societal impact.

“Altron Karabina helps companies to understand, manage and make decisions based on their data. In GroFin’s case this not only improved their own businesses processes. It will also help them to empower the SMEs they serve.”

GroFin Ivory Coast committed to supporting women entrepreneurs

Abidjan – GroFin is increasing its focus on developing women entrepreneurs. Guillaume Liby, Investment Executive at GroFin Ivory Coast, told media that women entrepreneurs in developing economies like Ivory Coast can play a powerful role in fostering economic growth and creating employment, but still face a wide range of challenges.

“All entrepreneurs face challenges, but women can find it even harder to overcome hurdles such as a lack of access to appropriate finance and business skills. GroFin believes our business model of combining tailored finance and business support is therefore very well suited to developing women entrepreneurs.”

The IFC’s Enterprise Finance Gap Database shows that more than two-thirds of formal women-owned SMEs in developing countries are either shut out by financial institutions or cannot find finance on the right terms. Liby says this gap needs to be addressed urgently.

“GroFin’s extensive experience in working with women entrepreneurs has shown us that women tend to plough back their income toward improving the well-being of their families and communities. This means that ensuring the development of women-owned businesses can have a far-reaching impact on addressing critical issues such as poverty and unemployment.”

GroFin has invested $36.5 million (USD) in 119 women-owned businesses and 30% of jobs sustained by GroFin clients are held by women. In Ivory Coast, 25% of GroFin’s investments have been in women-owned businesses and a third of the businesses in its current portfolio are owned by women. GroFin’s investment in Ivory Coast has created a total of 254 jobs in the country, which includes 101 jobs for women.

GroFin’s first client in Ivory Coast was in ICODI, a woman-owned business specialising in mobile money services and the retail of phone recharge cards.

“GroFin provided me with the financing to open to additional outlets and position my business much better amongst its peers. GroFin has become a trusted partner on my journey as a woman entrepreneur,” says Ndaw Zeinab Mariam, managing director and founder of ICODI.

Liby explains that GroFin also partners with organisations which focus specifically on women entrepreneurs to give its clients access to additional mentoring, networking opportunities and capacity building programmes.

GroFin is currently partnering with the International Trade Centre (ITC), in the SheTrades Invest initiative, which aims to increase investment in women-owned businesses in Ivory Coast and the other countries where Grofin operates. The initiative aims to connect three million women to market by 2021.  In addition, GroFin also has a partnership with the Vital Voices Global Partnership which allows women leaders to participate in skill-building and network development efforts in economic empowerment and entrepreneurship.

This year GroFin is also hosting a range of capacity building workshops for female entrepreneurs in most of the countries where it has a presence. The first Ivory Coast workshop for women entrepreneurs is set to take place on 26 April and will focus on the importance of management accounts in operating a business.

“GroFin is excited to share our knowledge and expertise with women entrepreneurs as we have seen first-hand what a big difference access to the right skills can make to the success of a small business,” Liby concludes.

About GroFin

GroFin is a pioneering private development financial institution specialising in financing and supporting small and growing businesses (SGBs) across Africa and the Middle East. We combine medium term loan capital and specialised business support to grow SGBs in emerging markets. By successfully combining medium term loans and specialised business support delivered through our local offices, we have invested in over 700 SMEs and sustained over 88,150 jobs across a wide spectrum of business activities within the 15 countries in Africa and Middle East that we operate in. GroFin has its headquarters located in Mauritius.

Media enquiries:

Guillaume Liby, Investment Executive at GroFin Ivory Coast on +225 2251 5135 , or email Guillaume@grofin.com