Proparco has just signed a financing agreement with Agence de Crédit pour l’Entreprise Privée au Cameroun S.A. (ACEP Cameroun, or Cameroon Private Enterprise Credit Agency), a member of the pan-African microfinance network ACEP International. The local currency loan of 2bn CFA francs (equal to €3m) will go to support the expansion of ACEP Cameroun’s work in Cameroon, with SMEs in the countryside as primary targets.
This first Proparco microfinance commitment in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community is in line with Proparco’s strategy of supporting the development of microfinance institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa and promoting responsible microfinance practices.
A recognized microfinance institution
Founded in 1999 in partnership with the Cameroonian government and with funding from the European Union and Agence Française de Développement (AFD), ACEP Cameroun has been a privately owned microfinance institution since 2005. It offers a wide range of financial services (loans, savings, money transfers, remote banking) tailored to the needs of micro-enterprises, its legacy customer base. ACEP Cameroun’s staff of 350 today serves over 30,000 customers through a 23-branch network covering seven of the country’s ten regions.
The loan from Proparco will help boost local employment and enhance financial inclusion in a country where only 12% of the population is “banked”, while supporting the private sector through lending to small businesses.
Developing offers suited to rural areas
Cameroon’s microfinance institutions are still largely concentrated in the cities, although 60% of the total population lives in the countryside. That imbalance led ACEP Cameroun in 2013 to start focusing on expanding its work into the countryside, setting up five rural agencies thanks to AFD support. Farm lending has been a big success with coffee and cocoa growers, and the plan is for it to become a growing share of ACEP Cameroun’s activity.