Equity Group Holdings has secured Kshs. 16.5 billion loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and European Union (EU) to provide liquidity to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) hurt by COVID-19 remain in operation.
According to the lender, the shilling-based facility is expected to shield small businesses from from foreign exchange shocks and match their operating currency.
The long term loan facility which is equivalent to 125 million euros targets to offer affordable credit to entrepreneurs and small businesses in the agriculture sector.
“Equity’s goal is to keep the lights of the economy on by ensuring firms and businesses remain open, sustain employment and by keeping markets open for goods and services thus facilitating a quick recovery of businesses and the economy at large. This funding adds oxygen to the real economy through funding of enterprises under the `Young Africa Works’ Program where Equity, Mastercard Foundation and the Government of Kenya are working to create 5 million jobs for women and young people through entrepreneurship over the next five years,” said Dr James Mwangi, Chief Executive Officer, Equity Group.
Under the deal, Kshs 6.5 billion has been set aside to lend to the agriculture sector while Kshs 10 billion goes to MSMEs.
Dr Mwangi added that additional 20 million euros (Kshs 2.6 billion) grant will allow the bank to build capacity on the borrowing clients to lowering the risk of default and hence allowing affordability by adoption of low-risk priced interest rates.
Equity will further use the grant to develop its longer-term agricultural financing activities with a focus on youth and woman while enhancing their capacity to lower their credit risk and hence the interest rate at which they will obtain credit.
“New EIB and EU support for leading Kenyan partner Equity Bank will help entrepreneurs, business and agricultural small holders across Kenya to access finance and better withstand the economic challenges and business uncertainties caused by COVID-19. Today’s new agreements demonstrate Team Europe and Kenya joining forces to beat COVID-19 and help business flourish,” said Thomas Ostros, European Investment Bank Vice President.
According to Equity Bank, its has renegotiated loan repayment terms for 45% of its clients whose cashflows and operation cycle were deemed likely to be negatively impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As an inclusive regional financial institution these facilities strengthen Equity’s position to further enhance the strength of MSMEs who are key actors in value chains and ecosystems of the real economy in agriculture, trade, manufacturing, health and MSME sectors. By ensuring their survival and growth the MSMEs will continue to protect jobs, create more jobs and support lives and livelihoods in society, serving to create resilience as the pandemic subsides, as vaccines become available in Kenya, and as market growth returns,” Dr. Mwangi added.
The bank reported a 30% growth in its loan book in support of its customers who saw opportunities of green shoots and diversifications in the COVID-19 environment.
This is the third tranche for Equity Group after having signed a USD $50 Million facility with IFC in September and a USD $100 Million facility from Proparco in October bringing the total to USD $275 Million, USD $150 Million and EUR 125 Million – an equivalent of bringing Kshs 33 Billion to fortify credit flows and liquidity to MSMEs.