Meet our Côte d'Ivoire SME entrepreneurs

Meet our Côte d'Ivoire SME entrepreneurs

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Oikocredit supports small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through the financing of SME lending partners. Here we invite you to take a closer look at our work, through two of our partners and their Côte d'Ivoire SME loan customers: Jean Koffi and Felix Kanga Yao.

According to the World Bank, SMEs contribute up to 40% of the national GDP in emerging economies. That is just one of the reasons why working with partners who finance SMEs is important to Oikocredit. In this article we present two of our SME financing partners from Côte d'Ivoire: Compagnie Africaine de Crédit and Baobab Côte d'Ivoire.

Yves Komaclo, Oikocredit Investments Manager West Africa says: “Our loans to CAC and Baobab further Oikocredit’s regional objective, to provide informal or largely underserved SMEs with the basic financial services they need to grow. That medium term lending they often find is in short supply”.

Our partner: Compagnie Africaine de Crédit (CAC)

CAC has been an Oikocredit partner since 2017 and is a microfinance institution (MFI) in Côte d'Ivoire. The MFI provides a range of financial services to individuals and SMEs. Before the pandemic last year, we had an opportunity to meet with one of CAC’s customers, Jean Koffi.

In 1998 Jean Koffi started his own business as a building contractor for large civil works, such as roads. In 2012 he travelled to France to study energy saving and specialised in public lighting. And when he returned to Côte d'Ivoire in 2014, he concentrated his business on electrical installation, especially public lighting that reduces energy consumption. Our partner, CAC, just happened to be one of Jean’s customers where he had installed lighting in their branches.

So, when Jean needed working capital in 2017 for a large public lighting contract, he had the idea of applying to CAC for a loan. He had never taken out a business loan before, as Jean says, “As an SME, it is impossible to get a loan from regular banks”. But Jean did get a loan from CAC of XOF 30 million (West African CFA francs), that’s about € 45,700. He said: “I received the loan quickly, which made me happy, because I needed the money to secure procurement from my suppliers. Without this loan from CAC, I would not have been awarded this major public contract”.

When we asked Jean, what makes him proud, he said: “If you walk through Abidjan you see the lights I installed”. Instead of 250 watts of power, the lights are now 150 watts, which saves 40% of the energy required. And he is also proud to be an employer. Jean’s lighting installation team consists of 10 employees and 21 freelance workers.

Currently, Jean buys lights from a European multinational. In the future, Jean wants to start producing the LED lighting units himself, buying the parts and assembling them in his own workshop. This is one of his many plans to expand and improve his business.

Our partner: Baobab Côte d'Ivoire

Baobab Côte d'Ivoire has been an Oikocredit partner since 2014 and is part of the Baobab Group, formerly known as Microcred. The MFI began operations in 2010 and provides a range of financial and non-financial services to peri-urban and urban entrepreneurs. Before the pandemic, we also had the chance to meet with Felix Kanga Yao, one of Baobab’s customers.

Felix Kanga Yao is a pharmacist who started his career as an assistant in a pharmacy practice. In 2006 he opened his own pharmacy, which was going well until a political crisis hit Côte d'Ivoire in 2011. There was fighting in the streets, so he had to close his business for six months and start all over again.

Felix recounted this time in his life: “I was feeling totally down before Baobab came and rescued me. And within two weeks I had a loan and I could relaunch my pharmacy”. Felix used his first loan of XOF 5 million (€ 7,600) to buy new stock, pay his staff and steadily build up his business again.

Baobab Côte d'Ivoire started in 2010 and Felix was one of their first customers. When you meet him, you see a born entrepreneur. He explains: “What I like about being an entrepreneur is the ability to undertake anything, without any handcuffs”. He started his pharmacy with just four employees. By 2020, after having received Baobab loans continuously, he now runs a pharmacy, restaurant, car wash, money transfer service and a club. He has used the various loans to diversify his businesses as well as improving the pharmacy.

Guiding us around his businesses, Felix shows us the places where he plans expansion. One of his new ventures is to invest in land, which will give him the loan guarantees that he needs to get larger loans.

The reason he went to Baobab in the first place was their rapid response time. In 2006 this was a necessity to survive, now he says that it is a huge advantage when he wants to seize an opportunity. As Felix says: “Banks never approach me, Baobab visits me every time my loan is about to expire to discuss a new loan”. And it is not only Felix that benefits from these Baobab loans, as he provides employment for 48 people.

Felix Kanga Yao and Jean Koffi are just two of the entrepreneurs leading the 1.1 million SMEs that are financed by Oikocredit partners. For more information on this aspect of Oikocredit’s work see our Impact Report 2020.

And if you want to find out more about why SMEs are so important to Oikocredit, then please read more about our work in Hans Perk’s latest article.

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