From microbusiness to SME in Sierra Leone

Kadijatu Yomba had to close her first shop when the Ebola crisis hit Sierra Leone in 2014. However, not to be deterred, Kadijatu decided to start all over again once the crisis had passed. She even managed to grow her business ‘Bolowie Enterprise’ from microbusiness to SME in one year with the support of DGGF investee ACTB Savings and Loans.

Image: ©ACTB Client

Overlooked by commercial banks in Sierra Leone

Kadijatu Yomba started her business career in 2008, selling textiles and fabrics on a wholesale basis. Unfortunately, the Ebola crisis hit Sierra Leone in 2014, and Kadijatu’s business suffered to the point that she ultimately had to close shop. Not to be deterred, Kadijatu decided to start all over again once the crisis in the country had passed. In 2017, with a small microfinance loan, she started her second business, but this time in buying and sewing fabrics.

However, once business picked up and expansion plans were made, Kadijatu encountered challenges. “Eight hundred dollars is all they [commercial banks] would lend me”, she explains. Borrowing money for a growing business like Kadijatu’s is difficult in Sierra Leone and SMEs are virtually overlooked by commercial banks. Luckily, some financial institutions in the country are beginning to pay attention to this underserved group of entrepreneurs. This includes ACTB Savings and Loans, which provided Kadijatu with enough financing to buy a sufficient number of sewing machines to grow her operations.

Image: ©ACTB Client
Kadijatu Yomba, owner of Bolowie Enterprise: “ACTB Savings and Loans provided me with important financing to invest in the future of my business.”

From microbusiness to SME in a year

Fast forward one year and Kadijatu now has a display room and employs eight staff. When talking to her, she said her plan is to take out a subsequent loan from ACTB Savings and Loans and diversify into stationery and providing photocopying services. Kadijatu has also taken the step to a formal registration of her business, under the name ‘Bolowie Enterprise’, in honour of her grandmother’s hometown.

Sierra Leone’s financial system is characterised by extremely low levels of credit penetration: credit to the private sector is merely 5% of GDP, which is significantly lower than Sub-Saharan Africa’s regional average of 30%. DGGF’s SC&BD facility is financing ACTB Savings and Loans, one of the first and largest upscaling microfinance banks in Sierra Leone. Founded in 2008, ACTB currently serves close to 16,000 borrowers across Sierra Leone, more than 70% of whom are women.

DGGF supports ACTB to expand its SME lending operations

DGGF’s funds enable ACTB to expand SME lending operations and develop savings products targeted at women and young entrepreneurs, scale its SME lending operations, mobilise local deposits to sustain growth and further attract additional capital.

Want to know more about the way DGGF is enabling entrepreneurship in frontier markets? Read our new impact report.