Ecobank Kenya Wednesday launched the Emerald Ecobank Business Club aimed at widening opportunities for its Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) customers by creating direct linkages between businesses operation in 33 African Markets with over 12.8 million customers.
Members of the club will also get access to direct networking platforms, market information as well as business advisory services from the Ecobank, associated partners, external trade facilitation and preferential banking among others.
The Emerald Ecobank Business Club will focus on bolstering intra-Africa trade leveraging on the Bank’s presence in 33 African markets enabling SMEs to leverage on Ecobank’s customer book to authenticate and vet trading partners across the continent.
Speaking during the media launch, Ecobank Kenya Executive Director, Head of Commercial Banking Kenya & EAC Humphrey Muturi noted that the launch of the new Business Club is a wider strategy by the bank to grow SME sector by offering direct linkages and a seamless base of transaction for Kenyan businesses and their counterparts across the continent.
“As a pan African bank, we recognize the pivotal role that emerging businesses play in our economy, thus our target is to empower our SME customers by availing networking opportunities across our network of 33 African countries to help them grow with us. Most SMEs here in Kenya and generally across Africa face capacity challenges either in terms of technical knowledge on how businesses operate across the continent or in terms of access to opportunities to forge partnership. Emerald Ecobank Business Club members will therefore in big way enjoy easy networking opportunities and exposure to different markets”. Muturi said.
Muturi added that the Emerald Ecobank Business Club aims at facilitating the interaction amongst emerging Kenyan SMEs and the larger businesses across Africa, enabling members to benefit by being part of a like-minded community.
Though SMEs are willing to expand into the wider African Market they lack adequate platforms to network and understand potential partners a factor that have made most businesses cautious and unwilling to partner.
“For most SMEs, the main risk is the loss of their products or services to unscrupulous traders with no formal traceability or channels to authenticate the end recipient. If they can get access to a secure network, formal business channels and an understanding of trade rules and requirements in different markets then they are more willing to expand into new markets through B to B agreements.” Said Ms. Laurence Do Rego – Ecobank Group Executive, Commercial Banking.
According to Ms. Laurence, SMEs will also be able to leverage on the Ecobank Mobile App which has 4 million downloads so far.
The platform will benefit small businesses along border communities that have in the past had to transact in cash and constantly trade currencies subjecting them to exchange losses.
The Emerald Ecobank Business Club will also enable SMEs tap into new opportunities and deepen intra-Africa trade which currently stands at 14% accounting for 18% of African exports.
The launch of the club comes on the back of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement which signed by 44 African countries last month and expected to create a $6.7 trillion market by the year 2030.
Across Africa, small and medium sized enterprises are singled out as the key drivers for job creation, wealth generation and social-economic growth and development.
To take advantage of the CFTA SMEs will need to develop networks across different market a platform that the Emerald Ecobank Business Club will develop.
The club is already operational in Ghana, Nigeria, and Cote D’Ivoire among others with plans to launch in the entire East Africa in the next two months and all of Ecobank’s 33 markets by 2020.
Ecobank also has representative offices in China, Dubai and the UK.