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30 Sierra Leoneans Trained On Small And Medium Size Enterprises

30 Sierra Leoneans Trained On Small And Medium Size Enterprises

Following a recently completed 12-month training program for thirty Sierra Leonean Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs), ReGrow West Africa and Ecobank Microfinance have pleased to announce a Le4.15 Billion loan agreement for the specific purpose of SME financing.  The signing took place on November 16 at Ecobank Microfinance’s Freetown Head Office. (Photo: From top-right: Mr. Akuna Buckle, Legal Advisor, Ecobank Microfinance; Mr. Sheka Forna, Executive Director, ReGrow West Africa; Ms. Hussine Yilla, Country Director, RESOLVE Sierra Leone; Mr. Winston Williams, Managing Director, Ecobank Microfinance)

Under the agreement, Ecobank Microfinance will provide qualifying SMEs with loans for as much as Le330Million for four years.

“We are pleased to participate in this initiative to support Sierra Leone’s fledgling SME sector”, said Mr. Winston Williams, Managing Director of Ecobank Microfinance, noting that, “SMEs are extremely important for the long-term socio-economic development of Sierra Leone.”

Commenting on the ReGrow West Africa Programme, Executive Director, Sheka Forna said, “ReGrow has sought to create a different kind of private sector support initiative, simultaneously building the capacity of SMEs, enabling them to become investment-ready, and supporting a banking partner such that it can provide loans to SMEs adding that they signed the initiative to help the banking partner mitigate the large transaction costs typically involved in getting to know businesses well enough to make loans available to them and expressed believe that Ecobank Microfinance has the capacity and discipline to make these loans work and mentioned that they are very pleased to be partnering with them in this initiative.”

Observing that “SME loans are difficult to make in Sierra Leone and banks are not incentivized to provide them”, Mr. Williams noted and continued that, “Receiving capital from ReGrow West Africa in a Leones denominated bulk loan is very helpful as it takes away foreign currency risk, which is one thing we cannot control”. We also value the fact that we can build our due diligence on the rigorous investment readiness training and technical support that has been provided already by Cordaid Sierra Leone and ReGrow.”

Sheka Forna expressed thanks to ReGrow West Africa’s key partners: USAID, RESOLVE and the Sierra Leonean Petroleum Directorate. Sheka and RESOLVE’s Country Director for Sierra Leone, Ms. Hussine Yilla, also thanked ReGrow’s implementing partners: SLIEPA, Cordaid Sierra Leone, Cordaid Investment Management and Volta Capital. Ms. Yilla observed that, ‘This loan to Ecobank Microfinance is part of a broader initiative by ReGrow West Africa to build capacity of Sierra Leonean SMEs to receive and responsibly manage debt financing. Ms Yilla concluded by stating that  this is a template for how Sierra Leone’s fledgling SME sector ought to be supported and how Sierra Leone’s banking sector can  enable to be an integral part of that support.”

Abdulai Mento Kamara

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