Small and Medium Enterprises are important drivers of Africa’s economic growth, accounting for up to 90 per cent of all businesses in these markets. Now with almost everything put to a halt due to COVID-19 outbreak, this sector is expected to be hit hard considering that it attracts the least possible funding attention from retail, institutional and multilateral investors.
In many parts of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has badly hurt companies of all kinds particularly those with smaller operating margins, such as micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). Business and liquidity have dried up, jobs have been lost, and entrepreneurs have slowed down and in some cased closed their businesses. The major challenge is if and how these small to medium enterprises will recover post COVID-19 pandemic.
The need for easy access to capital raising becomes more crucial than ever. The GEM Portal, a dedicated online Portal designed for micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in need of raising capital for retooling operations, increasing productivity, or to increase their product range or to expand into diversified markets allows SMEs to raise capital in an efficient and cost-effective way.
It is a simplified yet innovative use of technology for SMEs to apply for equity or debt financing, and be exposed to financiers and financial advisors. SMEs can apply through the GEM Portal to raise capital in an efficient, convenient and cost-effective manner that ensures sustainability of the enterprises. The GEM Portal seeks to assist SMEs to access affordable funding, or “patient capital” that is different from the short term funding that is usually expensive.
The platform is designed to make it easy for all the participants in the listing and/or funding value chain as it promotes financial inclusion as well as deepen the capital and financial markets by enabling easier access to the capital markets by a broader range of issuers and investors.
Prospective SMEs complete an online application for raising capital through either equity listing on the FINSEC Exchange or through debt financing by investors. The interactive online form has an in-built comprehensive scoring and rating mechanism of each input by the applicant, indicating to the applicant how well they are doing and the prospects of their application. Applications that meet the predefined minimum score will be exposed to various providers of capital.
Some applicants may opt for listing on the FINSEC Exchange and these will have additional benefits such as a regulated market place with standard rules and a central settlement infrastructure operated by licensed custodians who will independently hold cash and securities ahead of each trade to facilitate uncompromised delivery and payment. The FINSEC platform connects all licensed securities dealers in Zimbabwe who will be able to collect and post sell and purchase orders on an open board thereby allowing for automated real-time multilateral price discovery in the trading of securities.
Investors have access to a directory of investment grade SMEs that have undergone pre-assessment on the GEM Portal. They are be able to choose SMEs to invest in based on their internal investment criterion thereby saving time from considering tonnes of applications. Having the investee company listed and trading on an exchange exposes the holders of the listed securities/ instruments to an efficient price discovery mechanism to determine a market price of their investment based on market fundamentals. Listing also provides an efficient exit mechanism for investors should they decide to disinvest.
Through ease of access using technology and the internet, the GEM Portal has extended reach to all provinces across the country. It is strengthening corporate governance structures within the economy by having more firms formalised and structured in order to meet requirements of lenders and investors as well as meeting ongoing scrutiny by shareholders and regulators. Further, it promotes empowerment and development of local entities by being a conduit for raising capital.