Ecobank wins 2021 African SME Bank of the Year – Ecobank has beat a host of other banks to emerge as the African Banker’s 2021 African SME Bank of the Year.
The bank took home the SME Award for its service in 2020, a 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 the pandemic, the organisers noted that Ecobank Group 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 was also 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.
Speaking on the recognition, Ecobank’s Group Executive, Commercial Banking, Mrs 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.”
The organisers explained that 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.
They also considered that the lender increased the utilisation of digital channels, such as Ecobank Omni Lite, to provide customers with capabilities to make payments remotely and conveniently.
The bank also upskilled staff to ensure their capacity to help develop the SME sector and collaborated 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.
It also partnered with tech giant Google to provide SME customers with the means to develop a free online presence through the Google My Business platform.
The bank also got a pat on the back for 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.
Another reason for this was the 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.
During the year, the ban grew 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.