WOMEN ENTREPRENEURSHIP DAY- SMART FINANCE

 

Introduction

Stimulus in partnership with the Swedish Embassy, hosted the 2017 edition of the Women Entrepreneurship Day on the10th of November. The commemoration event was held at the Swedish Embassy, and hosted over 50 attendees from the private sector, development world, and public sector. The 2017 theme for Stimulus’ WED commemorations was “Smart Finance”, a much-needed discussion given the economic environment surrounding enterprise development in Zimbabwe.

The event was opened by the Stimulus Executive Director, Rudo Mungofa, who gave a brief introduction of the importance of hosting such events as she dwelt on the background of Stimulus as an organisation focused on developing the private sector through enterprise development. Rudo highlighted how the financing system in the new informalised structure of Zimbabwe’s economy was posing challenges to SME’s who cite lack of access to finance as a barrier to their development. She noted that smart finance is a critical topic to discuss collectively, so as to explore innovative solutions to approach enterprise development, especially for marginalised groups such as women who face specific barriers which hinder their access to finance.

Maria Selin the Deputy Ambassador of the Swedish Embassy then gave welcoming remarks highlighting the importance of adopting development strategies which are pro-women, because they are at the core of development. Maria referenced her experience with Sweden which is a feminist government, and pointed out that the Swedish Embassy is willing to support platforms such as WED dialogues as they foster creativity, innovation and connection among various stakeholders. 

 

The Smart Finance

The Smart Finance panel was made up of 4 members, Audrey Hove from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe representing government, Nelson Muhau of the Stanbic Bank representing the commercial banks, Waddilove Sansole of SNV representing the development sector and Kuda Makuzwa an entrepreneur running a scalable enterprise, representing private sector.

The Smart finance discussion was lively and engaging and brought new insights in terms of how finance has been previously approached from the conventional financing perspective, and how the target market- private sector has evolved. The presence of multiple stakeholders for the dialogue enabled the dialogue to result in a number of key learnings regarding where SME’s stand as an emerging form of enterprises and where banks would preferably prefer to land. What was clear from the discussion, is that the financing system in Zimbabwe is no longer suited to the financial needs of the emerging crop of enterprises and there is therefore need to revolutionize the current financial system for it to effectively cater to the SME’s, which are the majority of the private sector. Furthermore, there is need to critically consider whether banks are the right institution for funding SME’s and to establish the level at which funding SME’s is a worthy risk for financing institutions such as banks. That having been said, it became evident that it was important to be specific about what sort of entrepreneur needed what sort of finance.

Below are the key issues raised during the dialogue

High Interest Rates-attendees in the dialogue were in agreement with the fact that interest rates prevailing where not sustainable for SME’s given their profit margins. Representatives of the banks however noted that they are making efforts to reduce these rates and registering various finance institutions to cater for needs of diversified SME’s.

Non-customised financial system- the existing banking system is conventional and only suitable for a normal economy which is formalised, something which Zimbabwe is not. For that reason, a huge proportion of the existing private sector is not being adequately serviced by the existing banking system.

Futuristic approach which ignore issues that need immediate attention-The response of banks to market needs is very slow and this is limiting its relevance in Zimbabwe’s financial context. Innovations such as Eco-cash, Bit Coin are servicing the bank’s clientele better than the banks themselves because they respond faster.

Fear of risk-Banks are crippled by fear of risk so much that they lose out on opportunities to invest in scalable ventures, out wanting to adhere to the stringent bank restrictions. For example, Kuda Makuzwa, the panellist and entrepreneur failed to access funding in Zimbabwe and ended up being funded in USA and Nigeria and now her scalable enterprise is providing a market for over 300 farmers and has made its way to the South African Market, yet in Zimbabwe she faced barriers in finance even though her business is viable.

Bad Loans – Loan defaulting is a chief hindrance to financing entrepreneurs, for banks. Nelson Muhau from Stanbic pointed out that most of the loans they administered through their entrepreneurship wealth creation fund. However, they noted that as a bank they could not single handedly manage entrepreneurs because of Zimbabwe’s economic terrain.

Lack of real entrepreneurs- The dialogue revealed that not everyone is an entrepreneur, and most people seeking finance from banks as entrepreneurs are only there because of the unavailability of jobs, for that reason, financing them is risky because they will abandon the business the moment they get a better job offer.

Poor Communication strategy- Communication is a major barrier that is hindering many entrepreneurs from accessing finance.  The language and paper work associated with accessing finance from a bank is not packaged for marginalised groups of people, e.g rural women. This makes them reluctant to access finance or experience difficulty when attempting to make use of financial platforms.

Poor Knowledge of knowing when to finance a project- Banks do not have the infrastructure or set up to accommodate entrepreneurs and are usually not willing to meet costs of training SME’s so as to reduce loan defaulting rates. Waddilove mentioned that this gap is usually met by NGO’s but even still, banks are reluctant to give out money.

The majority of finance available is administered and managed  by banks-Banks are acting as an impediment to accessing finance because they manage most of the donor funds which are meant to reach marginalised populations.

Proposed Solutions

 

Banks should collaborate with people providing business development services such as hubs- Insights from the dialogue suggested that banks partner with business development specialists such as Stimulus, who are well aware of the challenges, and cycles of entrepreneurs given their status as enterprise development specialists.

Reviewing of existing processes-Existing banking policies should be reviewed so as to establish whether or not they are effective, and to explore how these can be tweaked to better serve the SME sector.

Quick and agile response to market needs-Banks should acquire feedback and use it in informing decisions on their banking models for SME’s seeing that they are the hub of economic activity.

Explore collective risk sharing innovations-In order to balance

making impact in the SMEs sector by availing more finance, and managing the risk associated with SME’s or entrepreneurs.

Stratifying strategies used to provide finance to SME’s- Caroline Nyamayemombe highlighted that it was not realistic to cluster or generalise women as one group because women from different settings are surrounded by different sets of circumstances. The same principle applies for entrepreneurs. Audrey Hove from RBZ did mention that it was in the process of taking this into account and is registering financial institutions that cater for varied types of businesses in accordance to their needs.

Developing custom made financial packages-Financing packages should be designed with the business cycle of an enterprise in mind. It is not practical to have interest rates applying to someone at business foundation level, applying to a cooperate at expansion level. For that reason, there is need to revise packages being availed to SME’s bearing in mind the stage of business development that they are at.

Exploring creative sources of financing-From the dialogue, it was also established that banks might not be institutes to serve SMEs better. There is therefore need to explore other sources of financing such as order financing or crowd funding etc.