The Director General of the African Development Bank (www.AfDB.org) for Central Africa, Serge N’Guessan, led a delegation to a series of talks with Cameroonian private sector stakeholders, including women entrepreneurs, between 24 and 30 September 2022 in Douala.
Professional organizations and the financial institutions that work with them through the Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa initiative also participated. The aim was to establish a constructive dialogue between women entrepreneurs and financial institutions in Cameroon in order to promote women’s entrepreneurship in the country.
AFAWA, a flagship initiative of the African Development Bank, is working to improve access to finance for women entrepreneurs in Africa to bridge the $42 billion funding gap they face. The African Development Bank will mobilize up to $5 billion by 2025 to make this happen.
“It was a very good opportunity because these meetings allowed us to witness the barriers that exist between the banks and us entrepreneurs,” said Michèle Kepeden Lewat, Managing Director of Business Trade Cameroon SARL. The trading company specializes in the distribution of personal protective equipment to industrialists and other safety solutions in the workplace, including gas detection and analysis, fire protection, lifting and handling, valves and fittings and actuators.
The delegation visited two AFAWA partners in Cameroon: PRO-PME Financement SA, a financial institution specializing in loans to small and medium-sized enterprises, and Ecobank, a pan-African bank.
“Beyond guarantees, which are a major obstacle for women entrepreneurs, there is a problem in securing funds and keeping financial statements, which does not allow financial institutions like ours to protect the solvency of women entrepreneurs who turn to us for a loan to get,” she said, Pierre Conrad Edzoa, CEO of PRO-PME Financement SA
For the Ecobank representative, Cameroon’s rise depends on women. The bank has launched a program called Ellevate that supports women entrepreneurs in the transition from the informal to the formal economy by offering them specific loans depending on the type of business and the guaranteed terms.
“Prior to the guarantee, there is flexible pricing,” said Guy Martin Mbah, head of small and medium-sized businesses and head of branch network at Ecobank Cameroon. He said that the ordinary loan is usually granted on an interest basis of 10%, but women entrepreneurs benefit from a bonus: for the application fee, which is usually 1% of the total loan amount, women pay only 0.5%.
“We came to promote dialogue between women entrepreneurs and financial institutions. But we are very pleased that this dialogue is already in place, even if it is still tentative,” said Charleine Mbuyi-Lusamba, African Development Bank gender officer. She added: “The discussions of the last few days have allowed us to embark on the path towards a flexible and open dialogue, capable of creating real economic dynamism in Douala and in Cameroon.” She also announced that A high-level AFAWA mission led by Esther Marieme Dassanou, Head of AFAWA, will soon visit Cameroon to strengthen ongoing initiatives.
“We sincerely thank AFAWA because their actions effectively address our needs. We will organize more and equip women entrepreneurs to be up to the task that AFAWA will later take on,” said Alice Maguedjio, President of the Wouri Division Retailers Union, where the capital Douala is located.
In Cameroon, AFAWA partners with three financial institutions through the African Guarantee Fund.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Development Bank Group (AfDB).
Romaric Ollo HIEN
Communications and External Relations Department
About the African Development Bank Group:
The African Development Bank Group is the leading development finance institution in Africa. It consists of three different entities: the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF). The bank is present in 41 African countries with a branch office in Japan and contributes to the economic development and social progress of its 54 regional member states. For more information: www.AfDB.org