Support for African SMEs is central to Société Générale Group’s strategy. In 2018, the Group started deploying “Push SME”, its mechanism to support SMEs in Africa, for a period of four years. As part of this strategy, the subsidiary of Société Générale in Côte d’Ivoire (SGCI) aims to play an active role in building a sector of successful SMEs able to drive economic growth in the country. Mr. Assane KAH, SME Market Manager at Société Générale Côte d’Ivoire, tells us all about it.
How do you deploy your support for SMEs in Côte d’Ivoire?
SGCI deploys its “Push SME” mechanism based on three areas:
- Firstly, by offering customized financing solutions and effectively integrating the specific needs of SMEs in terms of costs, guarantees and responsiveness.
The idea is to provide financing solutions that are not only based on the balance sheets of SMEs, but also take into account the overall environment and reality of the company. We have developed a special financing program called “Product Program” for (or targeting) our SMEs that generally operate in informal environments. This program takes into account not only the performance of the SME, but also its portfolio and analyzes its track record. The objective is ultimately to allocate loans to SMEs taking into account other criteria than the balance sheet.
- Secondly, by offering SMEs customized digital services for the management of their activities and cash flow via our “SME Pack”.
When they open an account, SMEs benefit from this range of services, which also facilitates their decision-making and allows them to better meet the needs of their partners.
- Thirdly, by creating a dedicated business center. The Maison de la PME business center offers SMEs both our standard financial services and our assistance, training and advice services. This allows us to provide practical solutions to the development issues faced by these companies. The objective is not only to offer them financing, but also to assist them with their internal development.
The Maison de la PME was set up in September 2019. PROPARCO was invited to the opening of this center. Since then, we have been receiving clients, prospective clients, partners and so on every day. A lot of training sessions are organized there by partners, such as the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the audit firms Ernst & Young, Mazars, Deloitte, etc., to help local companies build their expertise. An SME that has developed this expertise will more easily access our financing.
What is PROPARCO’s role in this Maison de la PME?
This Maison de la PME also operates like a bank branch. As a partner, PROPARCO helps us by providing guarantees, such as ARIZ / EURIZ, to facilitate access to financing for SMEs. We are also currently in discussions with PROPARCO’s teams over setting up training programs to build the expertise of SMEs and increase their access to financing.
Is the “PUSH SME” program part of the Choose Africa initiative?
Yes, absolutely. This leads to the provision of guarantees that will allow SMEs to access financing. These guarantees, such as ARIZ and EURIZ, have allowed us to support a very large number of SMEs by financing equipment, machines, the construction of plants, etc. Today, with Choose Africa, we are continuously developing products to allow SMEs to benefit from our financing on a daily basis. We have also recently developed the new Trade Finance guarantee with PROPARCO. It offers SMEs the possibility of benefiting from “signature commitments” financing, such as letters of credit, SBLC, guaranteed drafts and securities. They allow them to secure their international purchasing operations and/or access markets. We have many SMEs that import equipment from France, for example. They use letters of credit to pay their suppliers abroad. These letters of credit are signature commitments that guarantee the SME’s payment. We have set up this Trade Finance guarantee with PROPARCO. It covers 50% of the bank’s risk exposure on the transaction. This guarantee facilitates access to this type of financing for a larger number of SMEs without mobilizing liquid collateral beforehand. With the current economic situation marked by a negative trade balance, this type of support product/tool has a very strong impact on the lives of local SMEs. An average of FCFA 200m to FCFA 1.2bn can be mobilized to cover a risk with PROPARCO’s tools.
How many SMEs have benefited from the “PUSH SME” support program and in which sectors?
In 2019, 70 SMEs benefited from the “Push SME” mechanism1. Many operate in food import sectors. The sector of imports and sales of construction materials is also very dynamic, as well as the general trade, transport and logistics sectors. We also have a few companies in the industrial sector (packaging, paint industry, etc.).
Are there sectors particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 crisis?
The hotel, catering and transport sectors have experienced difficulties. In conjunction with the Central Bank of Côte d’Ivoire, we have set up support measures (interest-free deferments of payments, ad hoc operating lines, etc.) so that they can pay salaries and cover their operating costs.
1 At SGCI, an SME must generate a turnover equal to or above FCFA 1bn (about EUR 1.5m) and up to FCFA 10bn. Below this turnover, a company is considered as a professional client.