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Dutch Bank Extends U$50million to Equity Bank To Support Covid-19 Hit SMEs

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Dutch Development Bank (FMO) has extended a total of U$50million to Equity Bank (Kenya) to lend to small and medium-sized firms hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Dutch bank said the facility would uplift Equity Bank’s lending to the perceived risky small enterprises, who have been hard hit by the economic effects of the pandemic – lowering their ability to save and tap loans.

“Funding for MSMEs is essential in lessening the impact of the pandemic on people’s livelihood and their communities,” said FMO chief executive Linda Broekhuizen.

“Together with the Capacity Development Project we are confident small entrepreneurs will get much needed support.’’

The facility has been disbursed under FMO’s financial program dubbed NASIRA that supports young, female, and migrant entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The European Union- backed programme’s scope was widened in April last year to also reach small Covid-19 affected entrepreneurs in the region.

“It will enable small business owners to access affordable loans through local banks, microfinance institutions and other non-banking financial institutions,” said the EU Ambassador to Kenya, Simon Mordue.

NASIRA uses guarantees to allow local banks to on-lend to underserved entrepreneurs.

Kenyan banks have in recent years taken substantial loans from global funds, including the International Finance Corporation (IFC), European Investment Bank (EIB), Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the African Development Bank (AfDB), attracted by relatively more favourable terms of debts like lower interest rates and longer maturity.

In addition to getting more capital to buffer their books, they have also been restructuring loans in order to protect the quality of their balance sheets, given the problems borrowers have faced in servicing debt due to the Covid-19 hit.