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Banking on MSMEs for recovery – Business Daily

Last month, the world celebrated the 5th anniversary of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day (MSME Day) to raise awareness about their tremendous contributions to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
MSMEs are the backbone of our economies, accounting for one-fifth of the global banking revenue. According to a McKinsey study, micro and small businesses account for more than 70 percent of all businesses and more than 50 percent of all jobs globally.
MSMEs contribute more than half of global GDP in high-income countries, while they create the most formal opportunities in emerging markets, accounting for roughly seven out of every 10 jobs.
However, the last two years have been difficult for MSMEs. The Covid-19 pandemic, for example, has revealed significant vulnerabilities within the sector. According to the United Nations, MSMEs, particularly those led by women, youth, ethnic minorities, and migrants, have suffered the most.
According to an International Trade Centre (ITC) study on the impact of Covid-19 on businesses in 136 countries, nearly 62 percent of women-led small businesses have been severely impacted by the crisis, and women-owned businesses were 27 percent more likely to close as a result of the pandemic.
In Kenya, emerging issues such as the Ukraine-Russia crisis have sparked inflation, and the effects of climate change and upcoming elections have shrunk GDP forecast to 5.2 percent growth in 2022, down from 7.0 percent in 2021, according to a recent Focus Economics report.
To stay afloat, MSMEs are increasingly turning to banks for additional credit and business advice to navigate the complex and volatile environment. Banks have made strategic decisions such as collaborating with global agencies to increase capacity and reduce risk when lending to SMEs.
Absa, for example, recently signed a Sh1.25 billion loan portfolio guarantee facility with the African Guarantee Fund (AGF), which allows access to up to Sh100 million in a single borrower limit.
Bank-restructured loans have also provided a lifeline to MSMEs. According to the Central Bank of Kenya’s 2021 report, banks restructured loans worth Sh234.7 billion in 2020 as part of several other measures aimed at mitigating the blow suffered by businesses that struggled to repay debts.
Other important decisions are increasing credit limit capacity, long to short-term lending such as loan top-ups, trade financing, and digital lending. All of these have been instrumental in aiding SME business growth and improving their operational performance.
Banks are responding to the needs of the MSMEs market with innovative business products such as personalised accounts for women entrepreneurs, insurance products for SMEs to protect them from disruptions and provide business continuity, asset financing for purchasing trucks and vehicles for logistics and operations or climate financing for environmentally friendly businesses.
Loan defaults by SMEs during difficult economic times have been a major pain point for banks in their debt recovery efforts. Banks are mitigating risks and closing the gap by carefully assessing businesses’ debt worthiness and providing business development advice before extending credit.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but banks that rethink their SME lending businesses on a regular basis can increase their market share and promote profitable growth.
In terms of financial inclusion, financial institutions must do more to close the gender gap. This is critical because, according to the CBK, women own slightly more than a third (33 percent) of all SMEs in Kenya.
Second, by leveraging advanced analytics, processes, and infrastructure, banks can make risk-adjusted lending decisions, reducing risk and uncertainty previously encountered.
Finally, combining financial assistance with advisory services can be one of the most effective ways of assisting the MSME ecosystem. Banks should endeavour to support MSMEs in thriving by providing market guidance, guiding transformation efforts, and providing networking and information exchange opportunities.

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