A regional workshop on non-traditional modes of access to finance and business capital, last Wednesday, commenced at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi. The workshop, organized by the Ecowas Commission, was aimed at bringing together some selected private sector players and specialists from financial institutions within the sub-region, to enable them to network
and engage in discussions within the sub-region. The organizers also envisaged that the workshop would offer the opportunity to bring transparency to the sources of finance available both traditionally and non-traditionally, the modus operandi to access these sources of finance, and how to tackle the key challenges in accessing them.
In her opening remarks, Beatrice Prom, the communication officer at The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of all economies and key sources of economic growth, dynamism and flexibility in advanced industrialised countries as well as in emerging and developing economies. She added that SMEs constitute the dominant form of business organisations, accounting for over 70% of enterprises. "They are responsible for between 60-70% net job creation in Africa," she posited.
According to Mrs Prom, in spite of the critical role SMEs play on our continent, they are plagued by numerous challenges - the key to which is their inability to access adequate and timely financing for their operations. He further added that improving access to sufficient and adequate capital for SMEs is crucial in fostering entrepreneurship, competition, innovation and growth in Africa’s economy.
For his part, Alfred Muhamadus Briaimah, the director of Private Sector, Ecowas Commission, stated that the world is now becoming a global village where competitiveness is becoming a key issue, and that this is why Ecowas identified the private sector as the key engine for growth within the strategies of the 15 member states of Ecowas.
He also added that once they start to operate by the set principles, it would increase the confidence levels of the banks, something which he said would reduce the perception of the risk of granting finance to this sector, and, therefore, within the long term, lead to a gradual drop in interest rates, in line with the economic fundamentals for each of the countries.