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Financier GroFin raises 170m dollars

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 20 – Small and Medium enterprise financier GroFin has surpassed its target to raise $150 million in the Africa Fund by $20 million.

In a statement, the financier said the GroFin Africa Fund had closed at $170 million. This growth finance fund targets start-up and growth opportunities in small and medium enterprises in Africa.

According to the statement: “The Fund will be invested in roughly 500 companies over a period of five years, making it the largest growth finance fund to date globally, which is a remarkable achievement for Africa.”

GroFin invests between $100,000 to $1 million in SMEs operating in various sectors of the economy ranging from manufacturing to retail and services. “These firms often struggle to grow because of a lack of access to capital and business development assistance, and as a result, Africa misses out on a significant engine of economic growth,” explains Kenneth Onyando, GroFin Kenya General Manager.

“To date the fund has committed $17 million to 50 transactions and is currently considering investment into a further 24 companies to the value of $8 million,” added Mr Onyando.

This is GroFin’s fourth fund for Africa focussing on making risk finance and business support available to entrepreneurs. The fund invests in Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa through GroFin’s in-country investment teams.

By the end of 2008, the fund had a total of $140 million, recent commitments by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and PROPARCO (AFD Group), through the Investment and Support Fund for Businesses in Africa (FISEA), brought about the final close of $170 million.

The EIB and FISEA join African Development Bank, CDC, International Finance Corporation, FMO, Norfund, Shell Foundation and GroFin Investment Holdings as investors to the fund.

Jurie Willemse, Managing Director of GroFin International said: “This is a clear demonstration of the high levels of interest that investors have for smaller investments in Africa that deliver both quantifiable investment and development returns.”

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“The confidence shown in the GroFin team and our unique business model, that integrates risk finance with business development assistance to mitigate the investment risk, is heartening,” she added.

“The Africa enterprise sector represents an exceptional investment and development opportunity at this time and has illustrated resilience through the economic crises,” said Ms Willemse.

She went on the explain that there is an ever growing number of entrepreneurs in Africa looking to start and grow companies and the GroFin viability based model – specifically developed for the African market – makes real returns possible in a segment that is overlooked by most investors.

Mr Onyando said: “The GroFin Africa Fund comes at an opportune moment in Kenya when the government is focusing its efforts on improving the business climate in the country, specifically offering SMEs opportunities that were previously not available to them. The fund will support SMEs to successfully tap into such opportunities.”

EIB Vice President responsible for the Bank’s activities in sub-Saharan Africa, Plutarchos Sakellaris added: “SMEs constitute a powerful driving force of the African economy and it is essential to ensure that tailored funding is available to support their continued growth, particularly during the current financial crisis. We at the EIB are proud to invest in such a focussed fund that serves a number of African countries and we are confident that GroFin has developed the necessary expertise to guarantee its success.”

Smaller companies in Sub-Saharan Africa are still struggling to raise external finance. In fact, lending to SMEs is hindered by high transaction costs and a lack of interest as this sector is perceived as more risky and less profitable. By targeting companies in need of growth finance, this fund will help to address this shortage.”

The Growth Finance sector is an essential yet underserved market in developing economies with many small and medium enterprises failing due to a lack of capital and appropriate management skills. GroFin leads development in this sector through the provision of both appropriate funding and extensive business development support to enhance the probability of success for entrepreneurs and their businesses.

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