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Leina Gabaraane is head of Standard Bank’s Southern Africa Business & Commercial Clients division. Picture: SUPPLIED/STANDARD BANK
Leina Gabaraane is head of Standard Bank’s Southern Africa Business & Commercial Clients division. Picture: SUPPLIED/STANDARD BANK

In an effort to expand inclusive domestic business growth in Africa, Standard Bank’s Business & Commercial Clients (BCC) division is leveraging the power of small, medium and large enterprises. 

Leina Gabaraane, Southern Africa’s BCC head who is based in Gaborone, says Africa is entering an exciting expansion phase, characterised by rapid private business formation and growth.

Standard Bank is partnering with businesses to build a capability ecosystem that will support small traders, agribusinesses and entrepreneurs to grow. 

Africa’s small market of large cross-border businesses, established corporates and global multinationals operating across the region are already well catered for. However, the numerous smaller businesses are poorly served or misunderstood by the continent’s financial services sector, despite their greater potential for growth. 

By partnering with the micro, small, and medium enterprises, Standard Bank provides the debt, advisory services and, in some instances, the equity participation to grow small businesses.

Banks require a lot of financial and governance information to form a risk view on extending credit, or not. Most micro and small businesses don’t have this information documented. 

Standard Bank’s long history and experience working with emerging businesses in Africa has allowed the group to adjust its risk philosophy and work successfully with businesses that don’t have collateral, or track, collect and share numbers in traditional ways. 

Instead, using technology to record payments, transfers and other transactions, Standard Bank is able to develop a comprehensive risk view of small businesses sufficient to extend credit. 

The bank’s on-the-ground presence and long-established practice of extending business support, as well as mentorship to its client businesses in Southern Africa, provides detailed knowledge of its smaller business clients. 

With dedicated businesses in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, Standard Bank’s Southern Africa BCC team will focus the group’s enterprise support and systems on nurturing African businesses domestically, regionally and globally.     

Here are things that can catapult a survivalist operation onto a multi-factor growth track: 

  • Helping small business clients track and gather financial information;
  • Secure loans; 
  • Meet bank-approved dealers, off-takers or suppliers in SA or China; 
  • Negotiate forex quotas or letters of credit;
  • Complete cross-border paperwork; and
  • Finance vehicles

While the five economies that Gabaraane’s BCC division covers in Southern Africa have extensive small enterprise segments closely integrated with SA, each of them are unique. Some are subject to acute foreign currency shortages. These require expertise in foreign exchange quota negotiation and supply. 

Controlling and cushioning pricing volatility remains a challenge in most regional economies. Others struggle with accessing cross-border opportunities. Businesses in the smaller economies face strong market dominance while logistics is a perennial challenge. Most need help integrating downstream suppliers or off-takers. Some are routinely challenged with political instability and all struggle to access capital. 

By partnering with these businesses, Standard Bank deploys its developed local, global, and digital ecosystems to assist small businesses access the capital, skills, local and global networks, thought leadership, mentoring, guidance and digital tools that open doors and drive growth.  

BCC’s success will be measured when small trader clients evolve into medium enterprises, medium enterprises grow into national corporations, or national corporations expand into trans-regional entities. 

Growing market share across key markets by targeting traders, importers or spaza shops with turnovers between R30,000 and R300,000 will have a positive impact on economic growth, employment and inclusion. 

The socioeconomic impact of this kind of ecosystem thinking, augmented by direct support, will multiply as Southern Africa’s businesses become bigger and more diverse, defining and sustaining the kind of economic expansion and broad-based employment on which long-term prosperity, stability and security is built. 

This article was paid for by Standard Bank.