ABCH secures $50m loan

HARARE - Banking group ABC Holdings Limited (ABCH) has secured a $50 million multi-currency loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB) for on-lending to small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs).

The loan, with a seven-year tenor, will be disbursed through ABCH’s subsidiaries in Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe — which AfDB said has “many enterprises facing liquidity challenges”.

“The facility is expected to support at least 200 SMEs and generate 800 jobs, including 400 for women, during the period of the project,” the regional financier said in a statement.

“Leveraging the relatively long tenor of the AfDB facility, it is expected to increase the average loan tenor for SME clients who can consequently expand their business, which will promote inclusive growth of these countries,” it said.

AfDB will provide the Botswana Pula and Mozambique Metical to support local currency lending and promote development of the financial sector in the respective countries.

“The AfDB line of credit will enable ABCH and its three selected subsidiaries to reach a larger number of SMEs across a wide range of sectors by offering medium- to-long-term loans, which are not currently accessible…,” said AfDB.

ABCH — recently acquired by billion dollar financial services holding company Atlas Mara (Atlas) — a pan-African financial institution targeting SMEs various sectors such as construction, agriculture, manufacturing, transport and services.

It is the parent of the retail banking chain, BanABC.

The group has gradually been increasing its SME portfolio share targeting 30 percent by end of 2018 as it plans to expand its retail network across its subsidiaries.

In March last year, Atlas — founded by former Barclays Plc boss Bob Diamond and Africa’s youngest billionaire Ashish Thakka — acquired ABCH in a cash share swop deal.

In Zimbabwe, the informal sector employs about 5,8 million people and is estimated to have an annual contribution of $7,4 billion to the country’s GDP, according to finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa.

Last year, World Bank’s country economist Nadia Piffaretti said it was time government started paying attention to the substantial informal sector which was now at 46 percent of the economy compared to South Africa at 17 percent and Malawi at 13 percent.

Piffaretti said the informal sector contributed 60 percent towards economic growth post dollarisation.

Players in the informal sector have been lobbying government for a policy on the mobilisation of deposits from the informal sector towards the banking sector and recognition.

Government last year commissioned studies to quantify and ascertain the value of SMEs to the economy before a framework to formalise the sector was put into place.

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