Financial institutions in Rwanda have pledged at least $223m to SME financing under the ‘La Finance s’Engage’ initiative at the fourth edition of the SME & Banking Africa Forum which is under way in Kigali.
‘La Finance s'Engage,’ held for the first time at the annual forum, gave the financial sector an opportunity to measure needs and opportunities of SME and presented innovative solutions for financing SMEs and, for the first time, allowed stakeholders to engage publicly with each other.
The commitment came on the second day of the forum on Tuesday, and followed a panel session on financing solutions for SMEs by banks and financial institutions which involved the CEO of the Rwanda Development Bank (BRD), Alex Kanyankole, the CEO of the Private Sector Federation, Stephen Ruzibiza, the COO of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Emmanuel Hategeka, and Kora Associates’s CEO Mireille Karera.
"98% of businesses we register at RDB are SMEs, and all their challenges of access to finance are similar,” said Hategeka, adding that in his previous function as permanent secretary at the ministry of trade and industry he noticed how banks were avoiding to fund SMEs.
“I am glad to say that this has changed today,” he noted.
Kanyankole for his part observed that BRD is the financial institution with the biggest portfolio to support SMEs in Rwanda.
“BRD helps SMEs have access to finance, directly, through the Business Development Fund and through partnership with the government,” he said. “We also work closely with other financial institutions, from commercial banks to Umurenge SACCOs, to extend loans under the Export Growth Facility.”
The fourth SME & Banking Africa Forum is organized in partnership with SFI/IFC, AfricSearch, OCP Group, ESPartners and Afreximbank among others.
It aims to enable African companies to access financing through banks, investment funds, guarantee funds, foundations and Business Angels. It also allows entrepreneurs to expand their networks and receive advice from business development specialists and fundraisers.
It includes B2B meetings, masterclasses for SMEs and financial institutions, sectorial business sessions on opportunities in Africa, and an SME Solution Centre for advices tailored to SMEs’ needs.
In his opening remarks, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Vincent Munyeshyaka, said that the government of Rwanda values SMEs, and has put them at the centre of economic strategies to empower youth and women entrepreneurs.
He also highlighted some of the initiatives the government has put in place to support start-ups and SMEs to make them a driver of Rwanda's socio-economic development plans.