Since 2011, Business Partners International (BPI), a Rwandan investment fund, has been providing a wide range of financing services to mostly small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to boost their growth. BPI supports SME growth by providing financing, specialist sector knowledge and value-added services to viable SMEs, hence tackling one of their biggest challenges today, which is access to finance.
It started with an $8 million fund that was used to invest in more than 40 Rwandan businesses, many of them owned by youth and women, who normally own few assets and can therefore not offer the security required for a loan. Many of these establishments have managed to grow significantly thanks to the support. Currently, a fund of $30 million is available for the East African region, which will offer even more opportunities for investment in the future. Hope Magazine talked to Jean Claude Mutajogire, the BPI Country Manager, about the fund’s impact on Rwandan businesses.
How have you tackled some of the financing challenges SMEs faced in the past?
We don’t have the same requirements concerning owner’s capital or securities that many other financiers do – capital or security are not necessarily required for an application to be accepted. The Business Partners model of financing focuses on a project’s viability. This has been crucial to removing the barrier of access to finance for viable businesses which were lacking sufficient collateral or money to secure loans from traditional lenders such as banks, in a market where most loans are collateral-based. When a business applies to us for financing, its proposal is assessed on its viability, which consists of two important elements: the entrepreneur (integrity, drive, vision, appropriate experience) and the actual business.
What kind of financing can SMEs get from BPI?
We offer both business and commercial property finance to viable businesses seeking investment of between US$ 50,000 and US$ 1,000,000. We structure unique, individualized financing solutions using term loans, equity and royalties or any combination of these. We offer maximum flexibility to suit specific needs. As part of an integrated solution, we also provide Technical Assistance (TA).
The TA or mentorship programme provides value-added services for the business owner including accounting support, problem solving, marketing plans, turnaround solutions, staff training, acquiring management information systems, automation of production processes, complying with product standard (such as ISO certification),etc. Customers can access to up to 30% of the main investment in form of an interest-free financing to cater for the abovementioned soft issues in the business.
Do you prioritize any particular economic sectors?
Applications are considered in all economic sectors with the exception of non-lending activities, direct farming operations, underground mining and non-profit organizations. We focus on financing sectors that have an impact on the economy. We may list among others projects that generate employment and those that reduce imports and or increase exports.
How do you ensure the proper use of your loans by the beneficiaries?
Our due diligence process is thorough, tried and tested, and provides insight into the extent of inherent risk in each transaction. If we find that the beneficiary would require assistance in handling the funds, our technical assistance program will help the business develop the required systems and provide appropriate training to staff.
Is there anything else you would like to tell our SME readers?
Business Partners International exists to fulfil the needs and requirements of entrepreneurs, exclusively in the SME sector. We are passionate about entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial development. We invest in you and stand beside you.
Our talent lies in our ability to unearth entrepreneurs and help them transform their lives, as well as the lives of all those they touch through their entrepreneurial endeavours. Our strength lies in our ability to tailor-make our service offerings to suit each entrepreneur’s unique needs, thus becoming the best business partner you’ve ever had.
Read this article and more in issue n° 78 of Hope Magazine.