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Dynamic Research Journals (DRJ)

Journal of Economics and Finance (DRJ-JEF)

Volume 2 ~ Issue 9 (September, 2017) pp: 24-30
ISSN (Online): 2520-7490

Overview of Small and Medium Enterprise Financing in some

African Countries
1Dr. Mustapha Namakka Tukur & 2Ukashatu Abdulkarim
Department of Business Administration, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, (Email; GSM: 07034845263)
Department of Business Administration, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, (Email: GSM: 07064233026)

Abstract: Financial exclusion is regarded as major constraint of firm growth. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises
are fraught with poor access to finance and incentives for growth in African countries. But the problem is more
severe in African countries where SME policies and programmes are pursued by public and private sectors as well
as development partners but yet the performance of the enterprises is at dismal. The objective of this paper is to
examine the major hindrances affecting finance policies and programmes as that affect access to finance and the
growth of SMEs in some African countries. In fact the general assessment of the SME policies and programmes in
Ghana, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa and Nigeria shows that the programmes failed to produce
fruitful results as a result of policy inconsistencies, Inadequate infrastructure, corruption, lack of political will
among other problems. These affects availability and accessibility to finances and SMEs growth. It is in view of
these the paper recommends that Economic reform policies and strategies should be developed in consonance with
the operating environment of SMEs and circumstances and also Within the ambit of support policies and
programmes; the SMEs should be restructured along cooperative lines and trade specialization.
Key words: SME, Finance, Policy, Programme, Africa

1. Introduction
There has been a gradual and global shift in the paradigm on how SMEs should be supported through
institutional structures. Initial efforts, perceived the SME sector through paternalistic lenses and identified it as an
entity to be protected (OECD, 2004). The OECD, 2004 also reports that lessons learned, and advances especially, in
biotechnology, information, communication and materials technologies and efforts to liberalize, shifted the
paradigm to one of SME promotion, starting in the 1980s. The organization confirmed that the result was an
enhanced focus on specific sub-sectors and activities; with considerably larger amounts of assistance and subsidies
going to high technology oriented manufacturing and service firms and entrepreneurship development. With the
advent of globalization and trade liberalization, the paradigm shifted again, and is now, one of facilitation, where a
holistic approach to competitiveness takes priority.
The recent paradigm shift in policies on SMEs support and financing followed the UN declaration of 2005
as year of micro-credit. The philosophy was to encourage small business operators access to finance and improve
their income level, create jobs and reduce poverty. This is peculiar to underdeveloped nations, because small and
medium enterprise support activities in the industrialized nations are only geared toward encouraging
industrialization and SMEs participation in economic development.
In African countries, series of policies and support programmes led by public and private sectors as well as
donor agencies geared toward creating conducive atmosphere and enabling environment for SMEs development.
Reports indicate that the SMEs sub sector is still underperforming and the problem attributed mostly to poor access
to finance. It is against this background that this study seeks to review the support policies and SMEs finance
programmes in selected African countries with a view to assessing the outreach and success of the programmes and
specifically the effect of the policies and programmes on the target enterprises.

2.1. Promoting the activities of small and medium businesses in Ghana

It is believed that Ghana began officially promoting the activities of small and medium businesses in 1969
with the establishment of the Credit Guarantee Scheme by the Bank of Ghana to assist entrepreneurs in obtaining
bank credit. This was followed, in 1970, by the creation of the Ghana business promoting programme. The objective
of these initiatives was to promote financial and technical assistance to newly established and existing micro, small
and medium scale businesses, but their impact was limited. The schemes benefited mostly politically connected
Ghanaian managers of foreign owned manufacturing companies (Owusu, 2011). In fact, similar problem was 24 | P a g e
Overview of Small and Medium Enterprise Financing in some African Countries

encountered in Nigeria where series of government policies and programmes designed to develop the SMEs
subsector was hurdled by corruption and inconsistent policies.
In Ghana, this failure did not discourage government from initiating other policies that were in line with
SMEs support and development, because Andah (2005) points out that the support for SMEs in Ghana was even
intensified in 1990s following the establishment of the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI). The
major financial scheme operated by the NBSSI was a credit line financed by the World Banks small and medium
enterprise project. The fund offered credit to enterprises in all sectors of the economy except primary agriculture,
real estate and trading. The government also established a credit assistance scheme under the Programme of Action
to Mitigate the Social Cost of Adjustment (PAMSCAD), which was intended to cushion the effects on small scale
businesses of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). The credit facility, which was managed by the NBSSI,
was intended to assist entrepreneurs in procuring scarce but essential raw materials.
The NBSSI, in conjunction with Barclays Bank of Ghana limited also implemented an EMPRETEC Ghana
programme aimed at raising funds for small and medium enterprises through the organization of venture fund where
entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to establish business contact with potential investors. Surprisingly, Adams
& Pischke (2005) confirm that surveys carried out to assess the viability of these progrmames revealed that the
initiatives to help finance SMEs failed to make the desired impact anticipated. One of the reasons for this apparent
failure was that SMEs had limited awareness of credit schemes available to be accessed. Also, the schemes were
focused on urban based SMEs. It has been estimated, for example, that only five percent of the beneficiaries of
NBSSI credit for small scale businesses came from rural areas.
In addition to the governments effort to provide financial resources and capacity building for these SMEs,
a number of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other institutions are also contributing in providing
support for these enterprises. In-spite of the roles and advantages that Micro and Small Enterprises (MSMEs) have,
yet most of these industries are collapsing since they have not performed creditably well and have therefore not
played the expected vital role in the economic growth and development of Ghana (Adjei, 2012),. This situation has
been of great concern to the government, citizenry, operators, practitioners and the organised private sector groups.
Year in year out, governments, non-governmental organizations and other donor countries have made budgetary
allocations, policies and pronouncements with the aim of promoting the growth of SMEs due to the crucial role of
the SMEs sub-sector of the economy.

2.2 SMEs Support Policies in Zimbabwe

According to Owen (2005), in Zimbabwe, during the first ten (10) years following independence in 1980,
the policy environment confronting the SME sector was highly restrictive. Although the government attempted to
address some of the institutional concerns through the establishment of the Small Enterprise Development
Corporation (SEDCO), Venture Capital Company of Zimbabwe (VCCZ) and the Credit Guarantee Company of
Zimbabwe (CGCZ), most of these efforts did not address the basic constraints facing the sector. However, it is
important to note that with the advent of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) in 1991, there has
been a significant change in the government's attitude towards the private sector. The government has promoted
SMEs as a means to create more employment and income earning opportunities for the poor and thereby help
contribute to a redistribution of income; achieve economic independence by engaging local entrepreneurs in
industrialization and promote economic and industrial development of rural areas and small towns.
Matshalaga (1998) highlights that when the government launched the ESAP; it introduced policies that
were meant to increase investment in the country. It, nevertheless, placed more emphasis on the promotion of the
SME sector. Government's support for the SME sector has been seen in various policy documents i.e. the Second
Five Year National Development Plan (1991 1995) and the Framework for Economic Reform (1991 1995). It
placed more emphasis on the promotion of the SME sector. The major policy statement of ESAP was to improve the
status of SMEs as it clearly states that, the informal and the small to medium scale formal business sectors of the
economy together have the potential to make a major contribution to wealth and to employment creation (GOZ, A
Framework for Economic Reform, 1991-1995).
However, Mumbengegwi (1993) argues that, in Zimbabwe a shift from government regulation of the
economy to a market oriented policy regime created an "enabling environment" for SME development. Removal of
government controls improved the business environment, enabling entrepreneurs to respond quickly to market
opportunities and to promote competition that improved efficiency and productivity gains. The key areas of domestic
regulation are; relaxation of investment approval, relaxation of labour market regulations relating to hiring and
firing, free-up of prices, replacement of minimum wage legislation by collective bargaining process with no
parameters being set by government, and review of restrictive local government bylaws on SMEs. 25 | P a g e
Overview of Small and Medium Enterprise Financing in some African Countries

It is worth nothing that in respect of outputs, SMEs in Zimbabwe competed aggressively with imports.
Despite liberalization the SME sector continues to face barriers to entry, forced by oligopolistic behaviour and by the
fact that Large Scale Enterprises (LSEs) enjoy economies of scale. Macro-economic policies on SMEs in Zimbabwe
include fiscal and monetary policies such as; cutting government spending to reduce the budget deficit, removal of
subsidies to parastatals, implementation of cost recovery measures for government-provided social services
especially in health and education; and monetary policy in the past was administrative, but was to become more
market driven, in particular, interest rates were to be determined by supply and demand for money so that real
interest rates were to be positive.
Even though the above measures were supposed to benefit the SME sector, it was realized that some
actually worked against SMEs development. These measures reduced domestic demand as most people were
retrenched from the government. Domestic income was eroded by the retrenchments and this imposed a demand side
constraint on the development of SMEs. The fall in real incomes decreased the demand for SME products.
The government established many institutions to help with financial and institutional support to the SMEs
e.g. the Zimbabwe Development Bank (ZDB), VCCZ, CGCZ and SEDCO to offer financial services to SMEs
(Matshalaga, 1998). During the 1992/3 fiscal year, as part of the social dimension of ESAP, government provided
Z$100m in addition to the SDF which is disbursed through commercial banks, SEDCO and finance houses (Masuko,
Although a number of institutions have been set up to assist SMEs, the criteria used for the selection of
beneficiaries, such as collateral security, leaves out a lot of deserving cases (ILO, 1985). The beneficiaries are also
supposed to draft out project proposals and this leaves out the illiterate entrepreneurs. The mere location of the
financial institutions in the major cities with no branches in small urban centres shows that the institutions do not
serve the interests of SMEs in small urban centres (Matshalaga, 1998).

2.3. Initiatives to Enhance SMEs Development in Uganda

Kesekende and Opondo (2003) posit that, in Uganda, SMEs are taking the role of the primary vehicles for
the creation of employment and income generation through self-employment, and therefore, have been tools for
poverty alleviation. SMEs also provide the economy with a continuous supply of ideas, skills and innovation
necessary to promote competition and the efficient allocation of scarce resources.
Through Enterprise Uganda, Ministry of Tourism Trade and Industry in collaboration with the Private
Sector Foundation, Uganda has put in place several initiatives to facilitate SME performance and promote her
expansion. According to GEM (2004), over one in every three adult Uganda was engaged in some form of business.
The report further posits that these businesses do not live to see their first birthday and for almost every 35% of the
SMEs businesses that close, about 37% start new businesses again. As a result of these findings, the report ranked
Uganda as the second highest in terms of business startups and ranked Uganda as the country with the highest
business failure rate in the world (GEM, 2004). According to Nangoli et al. (2013), the key drivers of business
failure among SMEs in Uganda include; the poor saving culture, managers not being available to supervise their
business, lack of business management and entrepreneurship skills, excessive competition especially from foreign
products, employing untrustworthy people, failure to manage and pay bank loans, failure to pay back rent and taxes,
Sibling rivalry and conflict of interest between managers and family among others.
In recent years, a number of initiatives have been put in a place by both private and public sectors to
enhance SMEs development in Uganda by improving the operating environment. These range from fiscal to non-
fiscal incentives to stimulate business growth, the emergence of more robust financing options in banks, plans for
modernizing agriculture, various business development schemes, and, most importantly, simplifying procedures to
formalize business in Uganda. Business in Development Network (2008) noted that the government has sponsored
various initiatives to promote SMEs development in Uganda. The main initiatives are the Plan for Modernization of
Agriculture, Business Uganda Development Scheme (BUDS), Microfinance Outreach Scheme, UNIDO Master
Craftsman Programme, the Jua Kali Initiative, and the Warehouse Receipt System.
Apart from the donor agencies, government finance institutions and programmes for SMEs finance in
Uganda, one recent trend that has emerged in respect of financing of SMEs is that of the money lenders (Kakuru,
2008). Usually, wealthy business people in the community those are willing to lend money to individuals generally
on a short-term basis. Money lenders usually require some form of collateral to reduce their lending risk. Typically,
the security offered for this type of financing is a car logbook and post dated cheques (it is a criminal offense in
Uganda to issue a cheque that will be dishonored due to shortage of funds). Repayment terms are negotiated
between the moneylender and the borrower, with interest rates ranging from 10 percent to 30 percent.
Despite efforts by government to provide support to SMEs in order to attain performance sustainability
through different government programmes, there has been marginal improvement caused in the performance of 26 | P a g e
Overview of Small and Medium Enterprise Financing in some African Countries

SMEs. Business in Development Network (2008) clarifies that access to financial services is a great constraint for
SMEs in Uganda. In addition, compared to large companies, SMEs have most difficulty in accessing finance. Poor
access to finance affects the performance of SMEs in Uganda. According to Stella (2012), SMEs still report
stagnated and or reducing profits, sales growth, market share, low return on investment and low value for money
which has made them less competitive on both local and international markets.

2.4. SMEs Development Programmes Implemented in Tanzania

According to Stevenson and St-Onge (2005), the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania began its
first major attempt to promote the small industries sector as far back as 1966, with the formation of the National
Small Industries Corporation (NSIC) under the National Development Corporation (NDC). The emphasis of the
NSIC was to establish small industrial clusters, essentially training-production workshops, which in 1973 were taken
over by the Small Industries Development Corporation (SIDO), and continue to operate. Development partners,
donors and NGOs have over the years influenced the regulatory reform process in creating the right regulatory
framework and institutions, and developing sectoral policies and programmes. They have been implemented, and
continue to implement, grassroots skills training and micro-finance programmes to encourage income-generating
Number of SMEs development programmes implemented in Tanzania have been confronted with myriad of
problems. Calcopietro and Massawe (1999) stress that, in response to that a number of initiatives have been taken by
government, donors as well as the NGOs in Tanzania. Some of which are aimed, specifically, at empowering the
SMEs so as to stimulate the economy since they are considered to be very important in the economic development.
In spite of those initiatives to overcome the flaws that inhibit the development of SMEs sub-sector which have been
attracting government attention, Omar (2008) argues that in Tanzania there is still a weak supportive business
environment for SMEs, whereby most of the micro-finance institutions (MFIs) cater for those firms with the low
credit requirements which are below Tshs 2 million and crowd out those firms with higher credit requirements of
about 3 million to 10 million. This means that the credit beyond 10 million can only be accessed by those SME with
adequate collateral, even though these credits tend to be of short period and conservatively managed. In Tanzania
the proper risk management system and project lending are virtually not available from the commercial banks. Also,
the established venture capital and private equity funds are very few and only concentrate on the expansion of the
established firms whereby few of them pay attention to the fast-growing SMEs.
According to Abdul (n.d.), estimates show that there are close to 8 million small and micro entrepreneurs
who need financial services and the number is growing by 4% annually, the majority of whom are found in the rural
areas. The SMEs are involved in a wide range of businesses including trading, small scale manufacturing,
agriculture (crop farming and animal husbandry) and services (food vending, transportation, hair and beauty salons,
etc.). Microfinance institutions operating in Tanzania provide financial services to the SMEs mainly in the form of
micro credit with an exception of cooperative based microfinance institutions, which are predominantly savings
based. The credit based institutions number between 80 and 100 out of which 42 are registered members of the
Tanzania Association of Microfinance Institutions (TAMFI), the local microfinance network.

2.5. SMEs Support Programmes in South Africa

Mahembe (2011) construes that South Africa has a wide range of support schemes that target small
business owners in the areas of research and development, business and marketing support, exports and support for
setting up manufacturing, tourism and co-operatives. The majority is in the form of incentive schemes which pay out
matching grants to business owners, with either half or a large percentage of the project costs being funded by the
applicants themselves. According to Mahembe (2011), the key national support programmes identified by the DTI in
the National Directory are Khula Enterprise Development Fund (Khula), the National Youth Development Agency
(NYDA), the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) and the Tshumisano Trust.
In addition to these SMEs Government schemes, support to the sector includes financing schemes through
the use of guarantees, one of which is provided by Khula. The Khula Credit Indemnity Scheme was established to
give access to finance to people who wish to start or expand small to medium sized businesses but do not have
sufficient collateral or security to support facilities provided by participating banks. The scheme covers facilities
from R10, 000 to R3 million.
Falkena et al. (n.d.) stated that two (2) government departments play a pivotal role in SME development in
South Africa, namely the Department of Trade and Industry and the National Treasury. In this context, it has to be
emphasized that the Micro Finance Regulatory Council (MFRC) reports to the Minister of Trade and Industry. As
the financial backbone of Government, the National Treasury obviously plays an important role in SME finance
(inter alia through its fiscal policy). Other important role players are the regulators of financial institutions, i.e. the 27 | P a g e
Overview of Small and Medium Enterprise Financing in some African Countries

Financial Services Board and the South African Reserve Bank, which have to ensure inter alia that SMEs have
reasonable access to finance. Lastly, the Competition Commission has to ensure that the various players compete on
a level playing field. Effective cooperation between different government departments is critical to ensure that
public policy addresses any market failures, without introducing new distortions or different obstacles.
It has been noted that the Government support programmes for SMEs in South Africa fail to achieve the
objectives they are set up to achieve. Mehembe (2011) argues that reasons for the failure of Government support to
small businesses identified include: lack of awareness (outreach); uneven distribution (concentration in metropolitan
areas); the high cost of searching for support services which has not been mitigated by effective information on how
and where to access support; and cumbersome administrative requirements of Government programmes resulting in
user fatigue and high levels of disappointment.

2.6. Governments Effort in the Development of SMEs in Nigeria

It has been pointed out by Ibrahim (2008) that governments, as well as other stakeholders such as banks,
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), umbrella bodies and associations have instituted various measures and
initiatives to promote the growth and development of SMEs in Nigeria. These measures and initiatives include fiscal
and industrial policies, creation of institutional structures, programmes and schemes, aimed at proffering a solution
to the many challenges confronting SMEs in the country.
Over the years, the Federal Government has taken various steps, including monetary, fiscal and industrial
policy measures to promote the development of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs). Specifically, CBN
(2003) reports that the government has been active in the following areas such as; funding and setting up of
industrial estates to reduce overhead costs and establishing specialized financial institutions in the country.
Some other programmes implemented to support SMEs development in Nigeria include,
i. Small Scale Industries Credit Scheme (SSICS)
ii. The Nigerian Bank for Commerce and Industry (NBCI)
iii. The Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (NIDB)
iv. Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
v. World Bank Assisted SME II Loan Project
vi. The National Economic Reconstruction Fund (NERFUND)
vii. The National Directorate of Employment (NDE)
viii. International Financial Assistance
ix. Banks Equity Holding in Companies
x. The Second Tier Securities Market (SSM)
xi. Technical, Training and Extension Services Programmes
xii. The Small and Medium Industries Equity Investment Scheme (SMIEIS)
xiii. Microfinance programmes, e.t.c.
The most recent policy on SME financing in Nigeria was the microfinance programme and according to
CBN (2005), the establishment of microfinance policy and supervisory framework for Nigeria was propelled by the
need to reduce poverty, generate employment, and stimulate economic growth through the provision of credit and
other financial products on a sustainable basis to economically help the active poor. Also, the decision is to bring
existing informal financial institutions under Central Bank of Nigeria's supervision to phase out existing community
banks and converting them to microfinance banks.
The above mentioned programmes were implemented to cater for the development of SMEs in Nigeria.
Some of the programmes still exist and many SMEs have benefited from the services of the institutions. However,
assessment and the general comment about the overall impact and success of the program have not been impressive.
Mambula (1997) in Limmuel (2009) points out that various regimes of government, since independence in the
1960s, have focused on various progammes and spent an immense amount of money with the primary goal of
developing the SME sub-sector, these have however not yielded any significant results (as evident in the present
state of the SMEs in the country. He further cites Oboh (2002), Okpara (2000) and Wale-Awe (2002) as saying that
SMEs are generally very susceptible and only a certain number of them manage to survive due to several factors
such as difficulty in accessing credits from banks and other financial institutions; harsh economic conditions which
results from unstable government policies; gross undercapitalization, inadequacies resulting from the highly
dilapidated state of infrastructural facilities; astronomically high operating costs; lack of transparency and
corruption; and the lack of interest and lasting support for the SMEs sector by government authorities, to mention a
However, Ayodeji and Balcioglu (2010) report that a number of policies in support of the development and
growth of the SME sub-sector ensues tariff, fiscal and infrastructure. Ayodeji and Balcioglu (2010) further state that 28 | P a g e
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government has used tariffs that have been adjusted periodically at various times to reduce production costs and thus
support the SME sub-sector. Also, the introduction of a second-tier window on the capital market, to provide long-
term finance for enterprises that cannot satisfy the requirements in the first-tier window has left a meaningful mark
in the development of the SME sub-sector. In terms of fiscal incentives, a number of tax measures aimed at
ameliorating the problems of SMEs have been put in place. This includes, Tax relief to all small and medium
enterprises during the first six years of operation and Pioneer status involving non-recoverable tax relief for firms.
And in the area of infrastructure, the activities of the Directorate of Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI),
National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF) and the various poverty
alleviation programmes of the governments have been set up at various times to address the socioeconomic
problems in the country.
Specifically, Elumilade, et al. (2006) discover that the programmes failed because of what could be
summarized as politics of personal rule, in which the rivalries and struggles of powerful and willful persons, rather
than impersonal institutions, ideologies, public offices, or class interests, are fundamental in shaping political life
and the master and servant relationships. Oni, et al. (2012) stated that, even though the establishment of business
enterprises particularly SMEs has been a resort to gainful employment, unfortunately, several problems have
presented limitations to most of the Nigerian entrepreneurs so much such that not only is the growth of their
enterprises affected but survival threatened. Among these numerous limitations are the problems of readily access to
capital, lack of managerial acumen, poor or absence of infrastructural facilitiesespecially power to support smooth,
effective and efficient operations.

3. Conclusion and Recommendations

In spite of the laudable programmes, institutional backings and financial incentives by the political authority,
private sector and non-governmental organizations, the SMEs records minimal contribution to industrialization
effort and economic growth. Even though the package of incentives by both public and private sectors are aimed at
fast tracking the growth and guarantying growth of the National economies, these incentives in some instances work
against the existence and well-being of the SMEs, due to the fact that some of those programmes were not well
articulated or the enabling environment for the policies and programmes to thrive in consonances with the SMEs
objectives may not be conducive. Thus the following recommendations may be considered in future to address
policies and programmes on SMEs.

i. Economic reform policies and strategies should be developed in consonance with the operating
environment of SMEs and circumstances thereon; for instance, the Structural Adjustment Programmes
(SAP) executed by countries such as Nigeria and Zimbabwe are plagued with a number of sectoral
dislocation and ambiguities; the Structural Adjustment Package are too ambitious and idealistic.
ii. Within the ambit of support policies and programmes; the SMEs should be restructured along cooperative
lines and trade specialistion. The development of cooperative societies among entrepreneurial and trade
lines will go a long way to provide basis for financial incentives of advancing credits and loans for
sustenance and expansion of SMEs product.
iii. The development of industrial development centres within a wide geographical spread to the rural
communities will go a long way in improving industrial extension services. Similarly the establishment of
technology incubation centres in rural community that has a population of 100 persons will facilitate a
greater internalization and receptivity to business ideas and innovations.
iv. Monetary and fiscal policies of public and private sectors should be streamlined in such a way that it
encourages SMEs operation. For instance, multinational companies and other industrial concerns declare
huge profits on annual basis and retain a reasonable amount of such profit as retained earnings. Part of
that retained earnings should as a matter of public policy be used to fast track the growth and development
of SMEs. Thus, the strapping of NERFUND in Nigeria is considered policy misdirection.

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