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GroFin Rwanda supports SME clients to mitigate COVID-19 impact

GroFin Rwanda, a specialist impact-driven SME financier, is providing extensive support to its SME clients in different countries to help them mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on their businesses.

GroFin clients in Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Ghana are also benefitting from €5,2 million in funding from the Investing for Employment (IFE) facility. GroFin is partnering with IFE, which is a subsidiary of the German Development Bank (KfW) and forms an integral part of the German Government’s Special Initiative on Training and Employment (“Invest for Jobs”).

Under the Invest for Jobs brand, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) offers a package of measures to support investment activities that have a high impact on employment in Africa, of which IFE is one key pillar

GroFin is a multinational, private developmental finance institution committed to the successful development of SMEs to create sustainable wealth, employment, and economic growth. It provides funding to the underserved market of small and growing businesses that often struggle to access funding from traditional financiers.

Rwandan entrepreneurs have received 40% of the total €5,2 million in funding and these local beneficiaries have commended GroFin for its support in aiding their recovery, enabling them to sustain their operations, and to protect employment.

Wilson Gafurama, managing director of GroFin client RGL Security, explained that some of its business activities were halted due to COVID-19, while some of its clients failed to pay their debts to the company. He thanked GroFin for interventions that helped the company to return to normalcy. RGL has over 3000 employees.

“Some clients halted their operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We used to work with 400 institutions, including gaming companies. Some suspended their activities without clearing payments,” he said.

GroFin assisted RGL by conducting an assessment to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on the business and enabled it to access IFE grant funding to pay its employees for two months.

“It is in this context that GroFin came to us and analysed our business. In November, they provided two-month salaries for our employees,” Gafurama noted.

Dr Ubarijoro Sowaf, managing director of Ubuzima Polyclinic, says his business has enjoyed a good partnership with GroFin for the past eight years and benefitted from deepened support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wenceslas Habamungu, managing director and owner of Ecoplastic, a recycling business producing plastic bags in Mageragere in Nyarugenge district, says GroFin has helped the company in the areas of business advisory and training.

“Working with GroFin has tangible and mutual benefits. Unlike some banks, GroFin never abandons its clients and continues equipping you with soft skills and tangible support until your business is successful and sustainable,” he said.

Christian Bugabo, the Investment Executive who heads up GroFin Rwanda, says the funding provided through GroFin’s partnership with KfW is aligned with national efforts to support economic recovery amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bugabo says GroFin will continue to walk with beneficiaries on their journey to regain growth. “We are optimistic that their operations will progress further. GroFin will sustain closer collaboration with beneficiary companies and provide all the necessary support for their businesses to thrive,” he reiterated.

Headquartered in Mauritius, GroFin offers financing and support to SMEs in 14 countries in Africa and the Middle East. It is supported by 34 international finance institutions, development organisations, and private funders who have committed nearly $535 million in capital.

GroFin has been operating in Rwanda for 13 years – since 2007. To date, it has invested $24 million to support 56 entrepreneurs in the country. This paved the way for the creation of 4033 jobs, of 32% of which are held by women and 75% of which are held by unskilled or semi-skilled workers.

GroFin provides loans ranging between $100,000 (over Rwf 98 million) and $1,5 million (over Rwf 1,4 billion) to help them increase profitability, create jobs, and contribute to national economic development.

This article was originally published by Igihe.

In the bag: Recycling keeps EcoPlastic going despite COVID-19

“I had an idea to look for what I can do for myself with all the plastic bags scattered everywhere in the country”

Habamungu Wenceslas – Entrepreneur behind EcoPlastics

EcoPlastic, a recycling business in Rwanda, collects 88 tons of plastic waste every year and turns it into new plastic bags, tubing, and sheeting. Habamungu Wenceslas, the entrepreneur behind EcoPlastics, recognised the business opportunity when Rwanda passed a law banning the use and importation of plastic bags. “I had an idea to look for what I can do for myself with all the plastic bags scattered everywhere in the country,” he says.

Habamungu approached GroFin for financing in 2017 to purchase new equipment to expand EcoPlastic’s production capacity. By the end of 2019, he had managed to grow the business’s sales by over 400% compared to its early years of trading in 2010 and 2011. But when COVID-19 struck earlier this year, EcoPlastic was forced to close completely for two weeks and the impact of the pandemic on its customers suddenly saw the business’s sales plummet.

“Our main customers were also forced to close. Some – like hotels, restaurants, and the airport – are still closed for the moment.”

Habamungu says COVID-19 has also made it more difficult and costly to import raw materials.

“Trucks have to stay on the border for several days due to compliance checks and this has increased transport costs by 10%. Luckily, part of my business does not require imported raw materials so production could continue – although at a lower level.”

As part of our efforts to support our SME clients, GroFin developed a specially designed Resilience Tool Kit to guide them in protecting their revenue and reducing their expenses. We assisted Habamungu in conducting a rigorous cashflow stress test to gauge the expected impact of the pandemic on four aspects of his business: demand, supply chain, staff, and finances. We also provided him with a COVID-19 ESG Framework to better protect his staff and customers from infection.

Habamungu says GroFin has not only provided him with moral support during this difficult time but also helped his business to remain profitable. For example, GroFin advised him to shift some production teams to work at night when electricity costs are lower and to focus on acquiring more local plastic waste as raw material rather than relying on imports.

“Instead of losing confidence, we continued to focus on marketing strategies and how we can expand our collection areas. It made me realise that even if we are in difficult times, we will resume and grow the company.”

EcoPlastic directly employs 54 people and supports another 35 who collects plastic waste for recycling. Despite the setbacks caused by COVID-19, Habamungu chose to retain all his employees and continued to pay their full salaries.

Nzeyimana Fidele has been working as an accountant at EcoPlastic for more than two years. He supports his spouse, two young children and a domestic worker. Nzeyimana says the pandemic has already cost some members of his extended family their jobs.

“We are forced to make some contribution to support them as our family and this comes as food prices are increasing due to supplies issues caused by COVID-19.”

Nzeyimana Fidele, Accountant for EcoPlastic

He says he feels very lucky to have been able to keep his job at EcoPlastic despite the crisis.

“It made me happy. I cannot explain the joy that I feel. There is hope.”