SME Financing in Africa: Collateral Lending vs Cash Flow Lending

  •  Ben Amoako-Adu    
  •  Joseph Eshun    


It is argued that economic growth in Africa will be enhanced by the expansion of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) but these businesses face financing constraints which tend to hinder their business success. Starting from a discussion of the various sources of financing for SMEs in Africa, it is established that the most effective and cheapest source of capital for the SMEs is debt financing from banking and other microfinance institutions because of lender monitoring and the tax-deductibility of the interest expense. However, collateral requirement which tends to be a major significant factor for mitigating the credit risk of the SMEs presents a problem to lending institutions because of market illiquidity, legal, administrative, and valuation difficulties. SMEs tend to be owned by low income entrepreneurs and families who normally do not have tangible, valuable and liquid collaterals, and even when collaterals are offered, it is a challenge to determine their market value. Often these problems result in the rejection of SME loan applications. As a solution to this problem, the paper introduces a concept of cash flow lending as a better alternative to the traditional asset-backed lending. While asset-backed or collateral lending emphasizes loan default and recovery from collaterals, cash flow lending is based on projected corporate positive cash flows, the required return of equity, equity valuation of the business, and finally, on the risk-sharing principle between the lender and borrower. For the loan application to be approved, the requested loan and all existing debts of the SME should be less than the equity value of the company as estimated from the free cash flow model.


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