GroFin – a pan-African fund manager and growth financier with its beginnings in South Africa – has been recognised by English business magnate Richard Branson in his new book entitled “Screw business as usual”. The book features selected case studies of companies using business as a force for positive change.
Recognised as a pioneering model, GroFin creates sustainable jobs by supporting entrepreneurs to start or grow existing businesses. This is done by blending tailored business finance and support to clients in what has been referred to as the “missing middle” i.e. those businesses whose needs are not adequately serviced by traditional lending institutions.
Founder Jurie Willemse explains, “While the small business sector is widely considered to be a vital source of job creation and local economic growth, its potential has yet to be reached. This is largely due to some key obstacles these businesses face, namely a lack of access to the right kind of finance coupled with appropriate support. Seven years ago we launched GroFin to respond to these challenges and to stimulate the growth of what is referred to as the SME sector with, of course, drive the knock-on benefits to the communities they operate in. The driving force behind this model was the vision that these businesses could create sustainable jobs in developing nations.”
Branson applauds GroFin for having developed an innovative, scalable and commercial approach that generates real developmental and economic impact. As Guido Boysen, CEO for GroFin Africa points out, “GroFin is by no means a lender of last resort or provider of ‘soft’ funding. Through the processes and models that we have developed, we are able to support businesses with real growth potential that would be perceived as too risky by traditional financiers and do so at market-related interest rates”.
The results of this approach are seen in GroFin’s track record and felt in the sustained success of the businesses they have supported across multiple sectors. Branson adds, “The company has helped enterprises tackle everything from water management to electricity supply, and animal feed distribution to student housing construction.”
He also applauds the business for applying its model across a number of different countries and markets. This is a key indication of the success of GroFin’s approach and was a priority since GroFin began with a vision to have a lasting impact on poverty eradication through the creation of sustainable jobs on an efficient and scalable basis.
Chris West co-founder and director of the Shell Foundation adds, “We believe the concept of ‘going to scale’ should lie at the heart of development efforts; as without this as an objective from the start most well-intentioned initiatives will fail to achieve significant and lasting poverty eradication.”
Launched in 2004 and currently with 10 offices in 9 countries GroFin manages some US$260m in funds and is supported by a number of respected global organisations including: Shell Foundation; Syngenta; Skoll Foundation; African Development Bank (AfDB); Bio-Invest; CDC; Deutsche Bank Foundation; Diamond Bank; European Investment Bank (EIB); Finnfund; International Finance Corporation (IFC); Netherlands Development Finance Company; Norfund; Proparco; SIFEM Foundation and Triodos.