Absa views the US-Africa Summit as critical. It is an opportunity to forge networks that can unlock immense economic value to the continent. Absa was a platinum sponsor of the Summit. Chibiya, the Chief Executive – Regional Operations says Absa deployed not only financial resources to the summit but also its human resources in order to ensure that they impart knowledge to African businesses on the best way to promote intra-Africa trade.
He adds that the Group’s mantra of “Empowering Africa Tomorrow, One Story at a Time” signifies a bold departure from traditional banking norms and embraces a progressive, exciting and community-centric approach. “We talk about empowerment because when we think about economic growth, everyone has to be a part of it,” he says.
Absa, according to Chibiya, plays a significant role in helping especially Small and Micro Enterprises (SMEs) position themselves to benefit from developed economies like the USA, Europe and China by creating tailor-made solutions that ease not only intra-Africa trade but penetrate into global markets.
Branches in 12 African countries
“Information and data sharing is critical in doing business because it informs especially SMEs about available opportunities in Africa and the world over. We have branches in 12 African countries. That makes us privy to critical data and information on available opportunities for SMEs to expand regionally. We provide such information to our customers, clients, and other stakeholders like Governments,” he explains. Moreover, Chibiya says Absa has tailor-made several solutions to facilitate regional and global trade for African businesses. He speaks of solutions like trade financing, saying whether businesses trade on open account, letters of credit or on collection basis, Absa offers the right trade solutions to meet specific needs of businesses.
Absa has a secure online electronic banking platform for small, medium, large and corporate customers. It gives businesses a single access point for all Corporate and Investment Banking products and services across Africa. Trade Finance clients are able to initiate, receive and manage the full lifecycle of the current Trade Finance product offering through the channel.
Working capital critical
It further allows users to add and approve beneficiaries before capturing applications. It also offers letters of credit, bank guarantees, trade loans and documentary collections. Chibiya says working capital is critical to businesses because it enables them to make payments conveniently and manage cashflow issues. He is aware that one of the barriers to doing business in Africa is lack of access to finance, which is why Absa ensures that finance is available to businesses any time.
“We do not only issue financing but also provide technical and capacity building to ensure that when our SME partners spread their wings regionally, they are able to navigate through issues like cross-border payments, foreign exchange as well as managing currency risks associated with importing and exporting of goods through our network in 12 African countries,” he explains.
One story at a time
He adds that for businesses that wants to trade with developed economies, the USA, Europe and Asia, they have offices in the USA and in the UK specifically to handhold businesses that penetrate those markets. “So we are well positioned to assist African SMEs spread their wings regionally and internationally because, as I said, our purpose is to ‘Empower Africa’s Tomorrow, Together… One Story at a Time.’” Chibiya states that empowering Africa means partnerships with governments, companies and other stakeholders to help them realise their ambitions. While doing so, he says, they pay attention to sustainability and play a role in addressing social pressures like limited financial inclusion and climate change.
“We invest heavily in technology to ensure that there is ease of transacting through digital platforms that can be accessed anywhere by anyone at any time,” he notes. “These digital transacting solutions being cheaper, we help our clients save money. We have solutions that allow SMEs to receive money from people paying through credit or with debit cards by just tapping the card on their mobile phones, and the money goes into their accounts. This can be used in public transport or even vendors.”
SHE Business Account
Chibiya points out that this enhances financial inclusion, especially among SMEs. Absa Botswana recently launched what they call SHE Business Account that is tailor-made for women. The account helps women-driven SMEs expand into Africa and beyond and to access funding for their businesses, as well as other specialised solutions to help women conquer Africa and the world.
Chibiya says Absa solutions are well-positioned to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) by capacitating the SMEs regional trade integration. “ACFTA also offers opportunities for us as financiers because for intra-Africa trade to be integrated, there is need for infrastructural development like a proper network of roads for convenient truck movement, interconnectivity as well as power connections for smooth trading. We are ready to finance those projects,” he says.