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IFC and Ecobank facility to finance SMEs in fragile states

IFC and Ecobank have announced the launch of a $110m risk-sharing facility which will increase access to finance for small and medium sized enterprises in fragile and conflict-affected states in West and Central Africa.

The target countries — Burundi, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of Congo, Guinea, Mali and Togo — face extreme and persistent poverty exceeding 50 percent of their populations, coupled with severe socio-economic challenges, such as low employment, lack of infrastructure, and high insecurity that disrupts business activity and impedes access to finance.

These difficult environments have exacerbated the challenges faced by small and medium-sized enterprises, which represent the backbone of the participating countries’ economies and provide the bulk of employment.

"Ecobank remains committed to supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, and this facility will go a long way to giving SMEs in fragile states or those emerging from conflict the kind of access to finance that they need," said Ecobank Group CEO Albert Essien. He added: "We are pleased to be a founding member of the Global SME Finance Forum and to be able to play a part in the launching of SME Club campaigns in many African countries. This includes participating countries for this project."

The facility is designed to overcome the challenges of lending to these smaller businesses which have a higher risk profile, in what are some of the world’s poorest countries. With IFC and Ecobank sharing risk equally in the $110 million facility, SMEs in the target countries will gain increased access to loans through Ecobank affiliates.

"IFC places a strategic priority on promoting financial inclusion and spur job creation in fragile- and conflict-affected situations," said Jean Philippe Prosper, IFC Vice President for Global Client Services. "Our partnership will enable Ecobank to better support small and medium enterprises that face difficulty accessing credit to grow their businesses in these economies."

IFC and Ecobank enjoy a long-standing collaboration dating back to 1993, through which these partners have delivered innovative and customized initiatives to underserved markets across sub-Saharan Africa.

Thanks to ETI’s unrivaled reach in Africa, IFC has been able to extend financial access in difficult environments at a scale that few other IFC-partner financial institutions can match.

Most recently, IFC extended an emergency liquidity facility in response to the Ebola crisis through Ecobank’s affiliates in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the most impacted countries. ETI continues to be a key partner of IFC in the markets where it operates.