For the third consecutive year, Equity has won the 2020 SME Bank of the year – Africa Award at the Global SME Finance Awards virtual Gala. The victory, in the gold category is testament to Equity’s long-standing and consistent commitment towards supporting medium and small-scale businesses across the region, as an avenue towards transforming livelihoods, creating wealth and fostering economic prosperity.
Speaking on receiving the award, Equity Group managing director and chief executive officer, Dr. James Mwangi noted that the accolade reinforced the group’s commitment and purpose of transforming lives, giving dignity and expanding opportunities for wealth creation.
“Equity, through its products and services, has continued to empower small and medium sized businesses and has transformed them into instruments of driving value across the society. Covid-19 has challenged the normal operations for many SMEs in Kenya and across Africa. As a leading financial institution, we remain committed to training SMEs, availing opportunities for growth and helping them recover because together, we can build a resilient economy and a greater world,” said Dr Mwangi.
Matthew Gamser, the chief executive officer of the SME Finance Forum said the awards provide the winners an opportunity to showcase good practices on the global stage and to foster learning amongst their peers. “We hope the winners of the Global SME Finance Awards will inspire SME financiers all over the world to learn from their good practices,” he said.
By the end year of 2019, SME banking portfolio contributed to 62% of Equity’s loan book. The lender has managed to cut a niche across the SME financing sector in Kenya and across the region, through among other factors; innovation.
Equity was recognized for its ingenuity in tailor-making solutions through its offering for the diverse SME groups across its portfolio. The bank’s digitization and innovation strategy has increased SMEs access to digital credit and disbursement through innovations such as EazzyBiz, EazzyFx, Eazzy Banking App and Equitel. Moreover, Equity has continued to support SMEs by equipping them with relevant skills through training and mentorship programmes.
“We recognize that this award would not have come if it was not for our partners who responded to our call of championing the social-economic prosperity of the people of Africa. I recognize the Mastercard Foundation for teaming up with us to train over 2.2 million young men and women to become entrepreneurs through our financial literacy programme. We have developed a training course for business development where we have trained 97,000 SMEs. Partners like IFC, AfDB, EIB, PROPARCO and DEG have together offered us USD 500 million loan fund to support SMEs during this Covid-19 period,” added Dr Mwangi.
The SME business forms the spine of Equity Group’s business portfolio. Renowned as ‘’incubator’’ and ‘’seedbed’’ of entrepreneurs, the lender has continued to support businesses within value chains and ecosystems and understands their needs and provide the financial support. As at the end of 2019, SMEs accounted for 60% of the bank’s total loan book and 78% of total deposits with the lender.
“The responsibility of developing communities is larger than what an institution can do on its own and we want to place a rallying call of championing social economic responsibility of the people of Africa and ask like-minded people to join us as we further this cause,” noted Dr. Mwangi.
The Global SME Finance Awards, which is managed by World Bank’s IFC, recognises outstanding achievements of financial institutions and fintech companies in delivering exceptional products and services to their SME clients. The award targets institutions that have successfully launched innovative products or services for SME clients, achieved remarkable results in providing finance to SMEs or have been innovators in digital financial services.