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Equity Bank Group and IFC Team up to Expand Access to Finance in East Africa

28 March 2012, Nairobi:  International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, today extended a Kshs 8.3 billion ( US$100 million) loan to Equity Bank Group to support lending to small and medium businesses, agricultural projects and women entrepreneurs in the region.  
The financing will support the growth of Equity Bank Group’s lending portfolio in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Rwanda. Equity Bank Group focuses on extending inclusive financial services especially to the underserved populations in the region.  
“IFC’s credit line will enable Equity Bank Group to increase its lending program to small and medium enterprises and support agriculture and women-led projects in the region. Thanks to this new loan, we will build on our achievements, especially deepening financial inclusion in East Africa”, said Dr. James Mwangi, CEO of Equity Bank Group.  
He added that a significant barrier to the growth of the SME sector, most of which are owned by women and the youth, is access to affordable credit.“Financial exclusion arising from lack of credit access has been the limiting factor affecting potential in SMEs to grow their businesses. This loan facility will not only enable us to offer SMEs affordable credit, but will also stimulate them to focus on regional export markets and match their strategic growth plans with long term funding,” said Dr Mwangi. Through access to credit, SMEs, he said, are expected to expand their businesses, increase savings, and ultimately reduce unemployment.
From its origins as a microfinance bank in 2004, Equity Bank Group is now home to 7.5 million account holders making it the largest bank in the region by customer base. The bank has operations in Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Tanzania.
“Small and medium businesses, agribusiness and women entrepreneurs can catalyze growth in African economies, but they face challenges gaining access to finance”, said Jean Philippe Prosper, IFC Director for East and Southern Africa. “IFC’s partnership with Equity Bank Group. will extend banking services to these underserved entrepreneurs, helping to build businesses and create jobs, both in Kenya and in East Africa as a whole.”  
IFC’s investment and advisory services have teamed up with nine banks and one microfinance institution in Kenya, to help them sustainably and profitably increase business with small and medium enterprises.  In fiscal year 2011 alone, IFC’s work with banks helped provide loans to 18,000 small and medium businesses in Africa.
In an effort to broaden financial access and deepen financial inclusion, Equity Bank has been rolling out agency banking in Kenya. These new channel is  giving small businesses and rural enterpreneurs ease of access to financial services.  Further, The Bank  through Equity Group Foundation in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation has rolled out a 13 week financial literacy program dubbed Financial Knowledge for Africa (FiKA) that  has so far benefited over 306,000 people and targets to train one million youth and women in Kenya.The programme is supporting the growth of SME’s as drivers of  economic growth by empowering enterpreneurs with knowledge to better manage their businesses.
Equity Bank has been recognised for its work in Microfinance and lending to the SME sector. In 2011, the Bank was named by the Africa Investor as the Best Initiative in Support of SMEs and the Millenium Development Goals. In the same year, the Bank was the only financial services provider named by the World Economic Forum as one of the New Global Sustainability Champions in emerging markets including India, China, Brazil, South Africa and Russia.
About IFC
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector. We help developing countries achieve sustainable growth by financing investment, providing advisory services to businesses and governments, and mobilizing capital in the international financial markets. In fiscal year 2011, amid economic uncertainty across the globe, we helped our clients create jobs, strengthen environmental performance, and contribute to their local communities—all while driving our investments to an all-time high of nearly $19 billion. For more information, visit
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About Equity Bank Group
Equity Bank commenced business in Kenya on registration in 1984. It has evolved from a small Building Society, a Microfinance Institution; to currently the all-inclusive financial services provider which is listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange and Uganda Securities Exchange.
Equity Bank Group is one of the region’s leading Banks whose purpose is “ to transform the lives and livelihoods of the people of Africa socially and economically by availing them modern, inclusive financial services that maximize their opportunities ”. While the Equity brand is associated with empowerment of un-banked & the poorly banked segment of population, the Bank has evolved to become an all inclusive bank for all. With over 7.5  million accounts, Equity Bank is the largest bank in the region in terms of customer base. The Bank has operations in Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Tanzania.