Ecobank Group, which has an affiliate in Uganda, continues to expand the Emerald Ecobank Business Club on the continent, aimed at widening opportunities for its Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) customers by creating direct linkages between businesses operation in 33 African markets with over 12.8 million customers.
The Emerald Ecobank Business Club is designed also to enable members get access to direct networking platforms, market information as well as business advisory services from the Ecobank, associated partners, external trade facilitation and preferential banking among others.
The Club will focus on bolstering intra-Africa trade leveraging on the Bank’s presence in 33 African markets enabling SMEs to leverage on Ecobank’s customer book to authenticate and vet trading partners across the continent.
The new Business Club is also a wider strategy by the bank to grow SME sector by offering direct linkages and a seamless base of transaction for businesses across the continent.
The, target, according to officials, is to empower our SME customers by availing networking opportunities across the network of 33 African countries to help them grow.
The initiative comes at the time when most SMEs across Africa face capacity challenges either in terms of technical knowledge on how businesses operate across the continent or in terms of access to opportunities to forge partnership. Official say Emerald Ecobank Business Club members will enjoy easy networking opportunities and exposure to different markets.
Further, the Emerald Ecobank Business Club will help facilitate the interaction amongst emerging SMEs in Africa, but also facilitate integration with the larger businesses across the continent, enabling members to benefit by being part of a like-minded community.
Though SMEs are willing to expand into the wider African Market they lack adequate platforms to network and understand potential partners a factor that have made most businesses cautious and unwilling to partner, officials say.
Under the initiative, SMEs will also be able to leverage on the Ecobank Mobile App which has four million downloads so far. The platform will benefit small businesses along border communities that have in the past had to transact in cash and constantly trade currencies subjecting them to exchange losses.
They will also enable SMEs tap into new opportunities and deepen intra-Africa trade which currently stands at 14 per cent accounting for 18 per cent of African exports.
The launch of the Club comes on the back of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement which signed by 44 African countries last month and expected to create a US $6.7 trillion market by the year 2030.
Across Africa, small and medium sized enterprises are singled out as the key drivers for job creation, wealth generation and social-economic growth and development.
The club is already operational in Ghana, Nigeria, and Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya among others with plans to launch in the entire East African region in the next two months and all of Ecobank’s 33 markets by 2020. Ecobank also has representative bureaus in China, Dubai and the UK.