SPECIAL REPORT: Saleh Usman Gashua of AFRACA on Creating Value for SMEs at SAM (Semaine Africaine de la Microfinance)

MicroCapital: What is your perspective on the theme of SAM (Semaine Africaine de la Microfinance) this year, “Creating Value for SMEs: A New Frontier for Inclusive Finance”?

Saleh Usman Gashua: Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa are facing numerous challenges, especially in accessing finance. SMEs, particularly those in the “missing middle,” comprise a segment whose growth and development will go a long way in generating jobs for young Africans. With 11 million youth entering Africa’s labour market each year, we cannot ignore SMEs. Microfinance institutions (MFIs) and other organizations serving these enterprises therefore have a major role to play in the future of Africa. I hope this edition of SAM will generate a range of concrete solutions for this segment.

MC: Your organization, the African Rural & Agricultural Credit Association (AFRACA), is one of several networks that collaborated to create SAM.

SUG: Organizing a forum of this magnitude is by no means an easy task! Given the experience of AFRACA organizing similar forums in the past, we know that a partnership approach is necessary. The coordination process so far has been seamless, with the lead institution, ADA, facilitating a well-coordinated, consultative process that has engaged all stakeholders.

MC: Please tell us a bit about AFRACA.

SUG: AFRACA is a regional association of institutions involved in promoting rural and agricultural finance in Africa. It was established with the support of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization in 1977 alongside similar institutions serving other parts of the globe.

AFRACA’s activities hinge on four strategic pillars: (1) Policy Development and Advocacy; (2) Capacity Building; (3) Knowledge Management and Information Sharing Services; and (4) Partnerships and Networking Programmes. One of the key strengths of AFRACA is the diversity of its members, which include MFIs, microfinance networks, commercial banks, NGOs, governmental institutions and research organizations.

MC: What have your members said about past editions of SAM?

SUG: Our members’ engagement in SAM has been very positive. They have found the event to be a great opportunity to meet other like-minded individuals to create opportunities for their businesses and drive a sustainable agenda.

MC: What would you say to someone considering attending SAM for the first time?

SUG: SAM is a indeed a unique event. It not only offers conference sessions but also numerous side events offering opportunities for learn­ing and networking. For an investment of EUR 500, participants access a menu more than 20 events to choose from, making it a good value for the money. I would like to single out the Investor’s Fair as a key event. This should be of interest to all MFIs that are looking for new investment.

Saleh Usman Gashua serves as the Secretary General of AFRACA.

This interview is part of a sponsored series on the third SAM, which begins on October 9 in Addis Ababa. It is organized by ADA, an NGO based in Luxembourg, with the support of Luxembourg’s Ministry for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, in partnership with Microfinance African Institutions Network (MAIN), AFRACA, African Microfinance Transparency (AMT), the Association of Ethiopian Microfinance Institutions (AEMFI) and Kenya’s Association for Micro-finance Institutions.