The Pan-African banking group, the Ecobank Group, is the African Banker’s 2021 African SME Bank of the Year.
Ecobank beat a host of other banks in the African Banker Awards 2021 to take home the SME Award in a 2020 tumultuous year characterised by the Covid-19 pandemic which continues to ravage many African economies, with Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) taking the greatest hit.
Among other criteria, the African SME Bank of the Year award 2021 recognises the bank which has significantly contributed to the development of the SME sector, thus helping them to build the economic backbone of the continent. Part of the entry criteria required that the winning bank has significantly catalysed funding into the private sector in Africa and promoted enterprise development by facilitating credit and access to finance for SMEs.
Since the onset of Covid-19, the Ecobank Group has considerably ramped up investments in programmes targeting SMEs by expanding SME-focused lines of credit, providing technical assistance to SME development institutions and building SMEs’ capacity via linkage programmes in partnership with its strategic partners.
The Group has been at the forefront of promoting gender inclusion and closing the gender finance gap through innovative initiatives such as ‘Ellevate by Ecobank’ that targets women-led and women-focused businesses across the continent.
Ecobank Group Executive, Commercial Banking, Josephine Ankomah, said “2020 was a year of unprecedented challenges on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. It required resilience and innovation.We needed to rethink our business and provide innovative ways to assist our SME customers to help them to survive the difficulties brought about by the pandemic. We are truly honoured to receive this recognition. Our immense gratitude goes to our staff, customers and partners who have made this possible.”
Some of the measures taken by the Bank to support SMEs in 2020 include:
- Proactively instituting mitigating actions, including tenor extensions and moratoriums on interest, to assist SMEs to manage their loan repayments;
- Increasing the utilisation of digital channels, such as Ecobank Omni Lite, to provide customers with capabilities to make payments remotely and conveniently;
- Upskilling staff to ensure their capacity to help develop the SME sector;
- Collaborating with existing risk sharing partners, particularly Development Finance Institutions (DFIs), to share a portion of the risk associated with our lending to the SME sector;
- Partnering with tech giant Google to provide SME customers with the means to develop free online presence through the Google My Business platform;
- Collaborating with the African Union’s Development Agency – AUDA-NEPAD – to focus on strengthening Africa’s support for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and assist their recovery from the impact of the pandemic by empowering MSMEs with access to capabilities, markets and finance, so that they can play a pivotal role in restarting Africa’s economies;
- Launch of ‘Ellevate by Ecobank’ which is a women-owned and women-focused product offering women an end-to-end partnership, through which they gain access to both financial and non-financial services such as financial education, product information, networking and recognition; and
- Growing the number of merchants using Ecobank’s point-of-sale (POS) terminals from 5,571 to 15,878, in addition to attracting significant onboards onto EcobankPay, our flagship QR collections platform, from 180,060 to 248,664.