African Guarantee Fund hosted a high-level meeting in Nairobi, Kenya on the sidelines of the African Development Bank’s Annual General Meetings.  Held under the theme “Fostering SMEs Financial Inclusion for Sustainable Development in Africa”, the meeting brought together key stakeholders for a discourse on advancing financial inclusion for SMEs. Speakers at the event included the President of the African Development Bank Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Ethiopia’s Minister of Finance Hon. Ahmed Shide, President and Managing Director of Trade and Development Bank Mr. Admassu Tadesse, Chief Executive Officer Development Bank of Southern Africa Ms. Boitumelo Mosako, and CEOs of Development Finance Institutions and AGF’s Partner Financial Institutions from across Africa.

The event showcased the significant impact of the African Guarantee Fund, highlighting its billion-dollar contributions across the African continent. As a non-bank financial institution dedicated to facilitating access to finance for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Africa, AGF has unlocked close to USD 5 billion in financing for SMEs through 200 financial institutions across 40 African countries.

Speaking at the event, AGF Group CEO, Mr. Jules Ngankam, acknowledged that thanks to the partnership with AfDB, AGF is now positioned as a leading guarantee fund in Africa. “The African Development Bank has doubled its capital in our institution over the last five years, enhancing our lending capacity to SMEs across Africa. Of this increased capital, 30% has been allocated to the manufacturing sector, with a significant focus on the agricultural sector to support the entire agribusiness ecosystem.”

Banks in Africa have increasingly recognized the importance of catering to women as a distinct and significant customer segment. This realization has led to the development of various tailored bank products specifically designed to address the unique financial needs of women. One prominent initiative in this regard is the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) program, implemented by the AGF. This program avails both risk-sharing mechanisms and capacity development to banking institutions across the continent, aiming to enhance women’s access to finance and promote their economic empowerment.

President of the African Development Bank Group, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, clarified that what AFAWA is de-risking is not women but the bias against women.

“AFAWA is about making room for women. I designed the AFAWA program because I believe that no bird can fly with one wing. Every bird flies with two wings. However, in Africa, we are not financing women. The economic growth rate and development of Africa will go much further when we start financing women because women make this continent work.”

Admassu Tadesse, President and Managing Director of Trade and Development Bank called on strategic partnerships to support the finance ecosystem in Africa. “I am pleased to see the leaders of the banking industry in Africa gathered here today. We have matured in our understanding of the imperatives of scale in our industry. Each of us has important roles to play, but individually, our efforts are still incomplete.”

By collaborating with strategic partners committed to financial inclusion and sustainable growth across the continent, African Guarantee Fund has unlocked financing for over 30,000 SMEs in Africa through banks and microfinance institutions that utilize its guarantee facilities.

The call to action for continued collaboration and commitment in advancing financial inclusion in the SME space was recognized as an essential tool for driving sustainable economic development in Africa. By aligning efforts, institutions will empower small and medium-sized enterprises with the tools and support they need to thrive by building more inclusive economies that benefit businesses and communities in the continent.