By Dipo Olowookere
In order to bridge the substantial trade finance gap affecting owners of Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (SMEs) in West Africa, the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), member of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group, has launched a new initiative called West Africa SMEs Program.
The new idea was unveiled at a special event sponsored by ITFC at the 5th edition of the Rebranding Africa Forum (RAF) held in Burkina Faso from October 5-6, 2018.
ITFC disclosed that programme will mainly provide financing lines, capacity building and advisory services to partner banks and SMEs in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) nations, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo, with a pilot project implemented in Burkina Faso followed by Senegal.
With a vision to be the bank of reference for SMEs and SMIs in Africa, and a strong presence in presence in seven WAEMU nations, Coris Bank International (CBI SA), has been selected by ITFC as the pilot bank to implement the West Africa SME Program.
This program will consist of the deployment of assistance to CBI SA to adapt and modernize its tools and its lending processes to further increase access to credit for SMEs and will also support SMES through capacity development with the aim to increase their bankability.
“The program was designed to support the West African SME sector by creating integration between business development and trade finance.
“As the backbone of the region’s emerging economy, these SMEs require improved access to finance now more than ever, and Islamic trade finance has a significant role to play.
“We are confident that the program will help enhance the utilization of trade finance instruments placed at West African banks for SMEs,” the ITFC Chief Executive Officer, Mr Hani Salem Sonbol, said.
In addition to CBI SA, key partners in the implementation of the West Africa SMEs Program include SMEs support institutions as well as various content providers for modules and tools and implementing agencies.
Also at the high-level event attended by several African Heads of States as well as Ministers and dignitaries from the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, the group announced a $1.5 billion Framework Agreement between the Government of Burkina Faso and ITFC.
As part of the agreement, ITFC will contribute to mobilizing financial resources to finance the export of agricultural commodities such as cotton and the import of agricultural inputs and foodstuff, as well as energy commodities such as crude oil and refined petroleum products.
It will also finance the extension of lines of financing to local banks to support local SMEs and the implementation of capacity building programs for the strategic sectors of the national economy.
“Burkina Faso is ITFC’s top beneficiary in Sub-Saharan Africa and we have since forged a solid relationship with the government to create an exemplary portfolio of operations that we can replicate in other countries.
“Our financing will no doubt go a long way in complementing the IsDB Group support for the country covering many sectors necessary for the country’s national development.
“The unique nature of our intervention remains as the integrated approach we adopt entails both trade financing and trade capacity development,” Mr Sonbol disclosed.
At the event were President of Burkina Faso, Mr Roch Marc Christian Kaboré; President of Niger, Mr Mahamadou Issoufou; President of Ghana, Mr Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo; and the Minister of Economy, Finance and Development of Burkina Faso, Ms Hadizatou Rosine Coulibaly Sori, amongst others.
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