The Cameroonian delegation led by the Minister of SMESEH, Achille BASSILEKIN III, is back to Cameroon
The 2022 edition of the Global SME Finance Forum took place under the theme “Harnessing Digitalisation for Sustainable and Inclusive SME Finance.” It brought together in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, delegations from all over the world, mostly made up of policy makers, bank executives and senior managers, development finance institutions and financial technology companies (Fintech). The Cameroonian delegation led by Minister Achille BASSILEKIN III, comprised, among others, the General Manager of the Cameroon SMEs Bank (BC-PME), Mrs. Agnès NDOUMBE spouse MANDENG, and the Head of Studies, Projects and Forecasts Division of MINPMEESA Mr. BOBBO MAMOUDOU
The Forum was created in 2012 by the G20 to accelerate access to finance for the world’s SMEs by promoting knowledge sharing, improving public policies and setting up consultation frameworks. Organised by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), it took place from 19 to 23 September 2022 and was structured around working sessions. These works began with a plenary session under the theme : Banking on SMEs: Driving growth, Creating jobs. In addition to the sessions, the programme included conferences, study visits to Fintech and financial institutions in the host city, an annual members’ meeting, Fintech presentations, the Global SME Finance Awards ceremony, the SME finance marketplace, and a variety of round tables, discussions and keynote speeches from world-class industry experts.
Over the past eight editions, the Global SME Finance Forum promoted various opportunities to help SMEs develop and access finance. The event offered many opportunities for networking, learning about the latest innovations in Fintech and good practices in banking and non-financial services for SMEs.
The thorny issue of financing
In accordance with Article 8 of Law No. 2010/001 of 13 April 2010 on the promotion of SMEs in Cameroon, support for financing is one of the four pillars of the SME promotion policy in Cameroon. The Government’s approach to promoting access to finance for SMEs is through the development of legislative and regulatory incentives for SME financing as well as support for the creation of specialised SME financing institutions. Furthermore, the State, in relation with financial institutions, facilitates the access of SMEs to financing as well as promoting the establishment of bodies or lines of venture capital or specific assistance.
However, in reality, access to finance is still one of the major obstacles to the development of SMEs in Cameroon. It is indeed recognised that banks in the Central African sub-region in general, and those in Cameroon in particular, are reluctant to grant credit to the private sector, especially to SMEs, which are considered vulnerable and do not offer sufficient guarantees of reimbursement. This situation was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, whose impact on the turnover of many enterprises undermined their ability to access various sources of financing available on the market. For example, the Bulletin of Statistics on Credit Costs and Conditions in the CEMAC zone shows that only 15.5% of bank credits reached SMEs, compared with 62.19% for large enterprises for the period from January to July 2021.
Indeed, some initiatives have been taken at government level, notably the creation of a bank specifically dedicated to SME financing, namely the Cameroon SMEs Bank (BC-PME); opening of financing lines, at subsidised rates, with the support of external partners, at some commercial banks for SME financing; granting of subsidies to regional and local authorities for the financing of entrepreneurial projects at the local level as well as within the framework of specific projects (prototyping funds, seed financing, etc).
In addition to government initiatives, specific financial services for SMEs are also set up by some development partners (UNDP, IFAD, etc.) and commercial banks (Afriland First Bank, SG Cameroun, PRO-PME Financement S.A., etc.).
Successful participation for Cameroon
With digitalisation, new financing tools, mainly supported by private structures, are emerging. This is particularly the case for financial transactions on mobile phones (Orange Money, Mobile Money), the development of online participatory financing platforms or online bank cards, many services offered by local Fintechs which all have the advantage of promoting financial inclusion and therefore access to financing for SMEs.
In this light, the organisation of the 2nd edition of the Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day in Cameroon, on 27 June 2022, under the theme “Digitalising enterprises: stakes, challenges and prospects”, was an opportunity to highlight the potential of a certain number of SMEs that have developed digital services for SME financing. Some of them presented their products and services at the fair set up for this purpose, while others received a visit from the Minister.
Cameroon’s participation in the Forum enables it to capitalise on opportunities and experiences to improve the legal framework for innovative financing mechanisms that are emerging, particularly those that use digital tools; adapt BC-PME’s financing offer in line with the growth of digital financial services; develop incentives for the emergence of Fintech in Cameroon; develop digital services for the financial inclusion of SMEs in an increasingly difficult economic and financial context; identify new financial services adapted to local production units, with many in the informal sector or VSEs; and seek partners ready to support the development of the Fintech ecosystem in Cameroon.