Equity Bank has established a Sh200 billion-kitty for lending to small enterprises as part of helping them overcome the ravages of Covid-19.
While unveiling the kitty during the weekend, the lender said borrowers who qualify for the credit line must be appraised.
They must also be members of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI). Terms of the loan include a repayment period of up to three years with single-digit interest rates which are below market rates.
The kitty will add to the contributions by the private sector in fighting the pandemic which has already cost at least a million jobs and is projected to cost the economy at least Sh2 trillion.
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KNCCI projects that accessing credit under concessionary terms, including easier repayment plans that include extended grace periods, could reverse the impact of the coronavirus and help the economy out of a potential recession.
Equity has already provided its donations to the Covid-19 response fund. Safaricom has also contributed Sh6.5 billion – in cash and in kind.
Citizens from various walks of life, besides business leaders have also joined in the fight against the pandemic, adding to the efforts by various corporate entities and lobbies.
Many individuals have contributed anonymously, with donations ranging from Sh100 to Sh1 million, according to official records.
Nearly two months after the first case of the virus was confirmed in Kenya, more than Sh2 billion has been collected under the Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund.
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Besides supporting the healthcare sector which has borne the primary exposure of the scourge, most of the funds have been channeled to the business community.
At the same time, funds have been used on protective gear for the care givers. Records show that the cost for managing a confirmed Covid19 patient over the treatment period is about Sh1 million.
Estimates for the management were revealed by the Kenyatta National Hospital after the discharge of the country’s Patient 1.
It has emerged that the economy is bearing the brunt of the pandemic through lost opportunities and employee layoffs, especially in the aviation and hospitality sectors.
“Equity Bank has committed Sh200 billion to support chamber finance activities, train and build capacity of three million chamber members across the country, support regional businesses and to promote and protect jobs and enterprises,” Richard Ngatia, the KNCCI President said in a statement.
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Startups, which provide at least four in every five jobs in the country, are also the most critical pillar of the economy. Their exposure since the pandemic broke out has been devastating.
Many SMEs have been forced to lay off workers or send them on unpaid leave as they assess the impact of the pandemic.
Some projections have indicated that the virus could be a headache for Kenya and the continent for the rest of the year, and that means huge resources are needed to tackle it.
Mr Ngatia had attended the kitty establishment meeting with the bank’s top executives including Equity Group Chief Executive Officer James Mwangi and Country Managing Director Polycarp Igathe.
“Moving forward, the bank has committed to help the chamber support SMEs and buttress the business community,” the KNCCI boss said.
Ngatia joins the list of donors to the fight against Covid19 through his personal contribution of Sh4 million to the fund.
He has also donated an estimated Sh6 million worth of personal protective equipment to traders and healthcare workers.
Mwangi had earlier given his family’s donation of Sh300 million and Equity pumped Sh300 million into the same kitty.
In total, MasterCard, Mwangi and Equity Bank have contributed Sh1.1 billion to the Covid-19 response kitty.
Peter Ndegwa, Safaricom Chief Executive Officer, had earlier indicated the firm’s contributions.
“We not only want to appreciate the great work the fund mobilisers they are doing, but also facilitate their communication as they continue discharging their duties”, he said.
Safaricom’s contribution includes monthly bundles for frontline government healthcare workers - 12GB data. It also includes 600 voice call minutes and 2,000 SMSs per month.
Safaricom also granted the Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund a data bundle of 50GB. It also granted 3,500 voice call minutes and 10,000 SMSs to 15 members of the fund to assist them in its smooth operation.
Guru Raval, who is a member of the Covid-19 Response Fund, told The Standard that the support received from institutions and individual donors has been overwhelming, citing that the donations have been in cash and in kind – including food.
“We have some very good support and the fund expects a lot more to be coming through from companies and individual donors,” he said.
Mr Raval and his companies, Devki Group and National Cement, have contributed Sh201 million, which includes oxygen worth Sh80 million.
Oxygen is dispensed by ventilators to manage patients who are unable to breathe on their own and require critical support in Intensive Care Units.
Among other big donors are ABSA which donated more than 200,000 masks on Friday, in addition to an earlier Sh50 million cash donation.
Jeremy Awori, ABSA’s Managing Director, is a board member of the Covid-19 Response Fund which is chaired by Kenya Breweries Ltd Chief Executive Officer Jane Karuku. East African Breweries Ltd, which owns Kenya Breweries Ltd, had already provided hand sanitisers worth Sh50 million.
KCB Group, the country’s biggest lender, donated Sh150 million. The contribution was matched by the National Treasury and the Media Owners Association.
Cooperative Bank and NCBA both gave Sh100 million, while the Hindu Council of Kenya donated Sh100 million in cash and a further Sh10 million worth of masks.
Taxi-hailing application Bolt is providing a rare kind of support by helping expectant mothers reach hospitals, especially during the 7pm-5am curfew hours.
Movements are restricted in the curfew period even though some fleet of the various taxi-hailing apps have been permitted to operate.
“We hope that this will help ease some of the anxiety that near-term pregnant women are facing during the pandemic by helping them access safe and reliable transportation during curfew hours,” the firm said.
Bolt’s rival Uber has reported that it would be providing 5,000 free trips to healthcare workers and 2,000 free deliveries from Uber Eats as the workers coordinate all coronavirus efforts in the country.
Other private sector donors are Capwell Industries and Broadway Bakeries which have respectively given foodstuff worth Sh20 million and Sh25 million. Sanlam and UAP have both donated Sh14 million.