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SME Finance in Sub-Saharan Africa: How do we achieve significant scale and reach?

Posted By Genevieve Edens, Aspen Institute, Friday, September 22, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, September 20, 2017

SME FINANCE IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: HOW DO WE ACHIEVE SIGNIFICANT SCALE AND REACH?

by Enclude, the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, and the Shell Foundation

Enclude, ANDE, and the Shell Foundation conducted this research in 2016 and 2017, with generous participation from leading providers of SME finance globally through roundtables, workshops, and interviews.  The study focuses on SMEs that are commercially viable with five to 250 employees and have significant potential and ambition for growth. Within this segment, our "Target Market" focus is on businesses in the “validate” and “prepare” stages seeking growth and working capital of between $250,000 and $1 million. 

State of the Market

 We estimate there are 9.4 million formal and informal SMEs in this Target Market with a financing gap upwards of $70 billion

Some financing models show solid commercial promise, but subsidy will be necessary for many years to come. Grant, sub-commercial, and quasi-commercial capital will all be required in greater proportions in order to leverage more commercial capital. DFIs will remain as the main investors, but will need to re-calibrate and re-frame their return expectations, and look to lead and be part of bridging solutions and systemic interventions. 

5 Promising Approaches to Move the Market

A material increase would require growth in the quantum of financing – targeting an additional $3 billion in financing by 2020-2022, led with funding from Development Finance Institutions, as well as donors, foundations, and corporations. Five of the most promising approaches to unlocking this capital, listed in order of absorptive capacity and investor appetite are: 

  •  Commercial Bank with an SME Unit 
  • Investment fund providing mezzanine financing
  • Asset-backed financing
  • Flexible debt instrument
  • Tailored private equity fund 

4 Calls to Action 

  • Build a robust data set that sharpens insights of size, distribution, trajectory, and returns
  • Go deep in one country to demonstrate the viability of the five most promising approaches
  • Unlock domestic capital markets, the only viable solution to foreign exchange issues 
  • Support local talent required to sustain reliable support for target SMEs

Download the executive summary and call to action here.

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