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Building on its financial support of businesses operating within the productive sector, the National Export-Import (EXIM) Bank of Jamaica Limited, has introduced a Champions Assist programme, to further help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

To benefit at least 15 viable SMEs in the agri-business sector initially, the programme, launched earlier this month by EXIM Bank, will allow agri-businesses to access financing from a combination of loans and equity. The latter refers to a stock or any other security representing an ownership interest.

Managing Director of the EXIM Bank, Lisa Bell, said the programme “is about helping to create champions from our businesses in Jamaica.”

She was speaking at a workshop and luncheon for SMEs, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, recently,  during which the programme was launched.

“We believe that SMEs are a key growth sector in the economy. They require more than the traditional funding provided by commercial banks. They require a holistic approach to meeting financial needs and positioning them for growth,” the Managing Director said.

She explained that the programme is designed initially for entities in the agri-business sector, “because we have recognised it as being one of the most competitive sectors within our economy.”

It will provide loan funding, equity financing facilitated by the EXIM Bank and provide critical technical assistance for marketing and business plan expansion, coaching and mentoring from experienced and successful business owners.

“We are hoping that this will result in a better organised and formalised SME sector; improved and increased efficiency among SMEs; and growth in their sales,” Ms. Bell says.

To be eligible, the company must be established, locally registered and operating in the agri-business sector. The business should also possess sound management; have a viable project/proposal presented in a business plan; have the potential to export or provide goods/services to the exporting sector; and be tax compliant.

Companies will be invited to apply for participation in the programme and once the requirements are met, funding will be made available in the first round for the 15 companies selected, the Managing Director informed. 

“Very soon EXIM will be making  a call for businesses within the SME sector to provide us with their business plans and that will go out via the print media, on our website and of course, through SMS (short message service)technology,” Ms. Bell noted.

Explaining how the process will work, the Managing Director said that once selected, EXIM Bank will determine whether the company needs a loan or equity, as many companies come to borrow from the Bank  but really need equity.

“If you are a company with two or three years experience in the agri-business sector and you are selected, and we determine that that you need an additional $10 million to get to the next level, EXIM will look at your financials and pre-approve you for a loan of a specific amount,” she said.

Ms. Bell noted that private individuals of high net worth, who are interested in acting as “angel” investors for SMEs in the agri-business sector will be invited to indicate their interest to the Bank and have the option of providing either equity or a guarantee for EXIM Bank loans.

Once that is done, the angel investor will work out the transaction with the company. EXIM’s loan will be disbursed alongside the agreed equity investment, and EXIM will continue to monitor its loan facility and provide technical assistance through its Business Advisory Unit.

“In two years, we are hoping that we will be able to take that company to the Junior Stock Exchange, and ultimately, they will be placed on the Stock Exchange,” Ms. Bell said.

The EXIM Bank was established in May 1986 in response to the Government’s objective to enhance growth and development through an export led economy.

It provides financing and financial assistance for the export and import of goods, commodities and services between Jamaica and any foreign country and encourages and develops trade between Jamaica and other countries by making arrangements for insurance for the benefit of exporters.

 

BY: ALECIA SMITH