Absa has been recognised as the ‘Best SME Bank’ in South Africa by Capital Finance International (CFI) for providing a wide range of prudently designed financial solutions to start-ups and established businesses.

About 12-million South Africans rely directly on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for their livelihood.

“A successful SME is not only built on obtaining adequate funding. A key component to success is accessing an environment of support and bespoke solutions. Creating an environment where SMEs can thrive is a top priority for Barclays Africa,” says Roy Ross, Chief Executive of Business Banking Africa at Barclays Africa.

In their adjudication, CFI pointed out that Absa aims to empower entrepreneurs with more than just credit. The bank maintains a comprehensive business development platform and facilitates market access via a procurement portal that includes up-to-date information on leads and tenders issued by both government entities and corporations. SMEs are able to register and list their products and services on the site, bringing together suppliers and buyers.

“Through this service, the bank is helping to broaden the market and expand opportunities for smaller businesses that would otherwise face major hurdles in gaining access to existing supply chains,” says Ross.

CFI also highlighted Absa’s nationwide network of seven enterprise development centres as another key component in enabling SMEs.

The centres provide SMEs with a holistic offering in developing their business. The offering includes support in navigating relevant regulations, managing cash flow, laying out business plans, facilitating meetings with like-minded peers, and a host of additional services and facilities.

Over and above the direct support given to SMEs, the centres are also used to host workshops, seminars, and other events aimed at skills development, business management, and financial literacy.

Absa is also able to offer SMEs access to a wide range of financial instruments and funds to bolster their working capital or underwrite expansion. The bank’s Enterprise Development Fund complements the government-sponsored Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) initiative that encourages corporate and state entities to support SMEs. Absa also maintains alternative funds for women empowerment and SME development.

“At Barclays Africa, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to open doors and grow business in South Africa. We are therefore very proud to be the recipient of this award,” says Ross.