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HomeInterviewTunisia: ‘’SMEs financing concerns all banks,’’ says Souhir TAKTAK

Tunisia: ‘’SMEs financing concerns all banks,’’ says Souhir TAKTAK

Souhir TAKTAK CEO of BFPME said the financial institution, alone, cannot finance SMEs. To properly meet the needs of Tunisian SMEs, it is necessary to have better cooperation with all the specialized players. Similarly, the creation of some conditions is more than ever useful to meet this challenge.

Interview:

How would you rate the results of BFPME?

If one wants to properly evaluate the results of BFPME, one must take into consideration the fact that the financing of SMEs and in particular creation remains a risky niche and this in all economies of the world. That is why public banks specialized in investment financing, particularly those oriented to SMEs need government support in one form or another (capital increase after a certain period of activity, balancing subsidy, implementation of adequate funding guarantees covering part of the risk,…).

Thus, cumulative losses currently recorded by BFPME are easily explained after 10 years of activity during which there was only one capital increase (that of 2008).

It is for this reason that we have made frequent and significant efforts to reposition the bank and provide it with the human and material resources required for its development, while relying on our accumulated experience in assistance of developers, and financing of SMEs in Tunisia.

In terms of portfolio quality, we are following the prudential standards, by provisioning risky loans, according to well-defined criteria.

We have tried, on the other hand, to assess the bank’s achievements through the performance indicators, achieved throughout our 10 years of existence.

And what about the approval rate?

The project approval rate is unfortunately very low. It is currently estimated at 20%

What should you do to improve the approval rate?

Improving the approval rate mainly depends on improving the quality of projects submitted to the BFPME, which also means an additional effort on the part of structures that provide support for promoters during the implementation phase of their business plans (between public and private actors and stakeholders as part of programs initiated by international organizations under international cooperation). The strengthening of the ecosystem of support for developers allows us to have a business plan of better quality, bringing about an improved approval rate.

It is noteworthy that the BFPME frequently takes part in various exhibitions, seminars, workshops and other interested in the areas of entrepreneurship and business creation. And that, in coordination with several partners like the CONECT, UTICA, “Réseau Entreprendre”, business incubators and other structures for entrepreneurship.

This is a very important and paramount step especially since the contractor should be properly trained and supervised. His support for the preparation of his business plan and aid provided about the specifics of the targeted sectors and regions concerned are the focal points of this phase.

Apart from this collaboration with such bodies, BFPME maintains a close partnership with commercial banks, the SICAR and agencies that manage public funds to support capital (mainly APII and APIA).

We want to work in synergy with all the actors operating in the sphere of SMEs to converge towards an effective program for the promotion of SMEs in Tunisia and the creation of sustainable jobs. It is a strategic approach that takes into consideration the fact that our bank does not finance the operating cycle, but only tangible and intangible investments by SMEs.

What are your goals?

We are currently focusing on monitoring our performance indicators that result in risk control while moving towards strengthening the SME guarantee system, through broadening the scope of intervention of the SOTUGAR to keep it in line with the same field as that of BFPME.

In my view, emphasis will be placed, in the next stage, in the quality of the portfolio and the level of risk coverage. These two components will affect the future results of the bank.

This is an important work ahead of us and that is why we are diversifying our partnerships and our products, particularly through the equity loan granted in the name of the sponsor with favorable terms (interest rate = 0%).

Is it possible to achieve these goals?

BFPME alone could not finance SMEs. It must with SOTUGAR facilitate SMEs’ access to bank funding through the credit guarantee, co-financing of investment loans and supply of new products, including the equity loan that can finance the intangible investment and the need in working capital. Everyone must know that this state-owned bank can only be an actor among others to fund the Tunisian SMEs. Indeed, the financing of the economy is the concern of all financial institutions.

To do this, we have to work and provide some conditions such as expanding SOTUGAR guarantee, strengthening partnership work with SICARs while consolidating the adequate resources provided by the state.

What is your reading of the provisions mentioned in the supplementary finance law for the year 2015, recently adopted by the parliament?

The provisions mentioned in this finance law are complementary. In fact, special attention was paid to the consolidation of the guarantee system.

This guarantee is oriented to all banks. This is an important reform aimed to encourage not only BFPME but above conventional banks to intervene in the financing of SMEs, without requiring external real guarantee, and further contribute to the promotion of regional development.

In this respect, funds have been set up to initiate the investment, while covering all sectors. Similarly, another fund was set up for regional SICARs and CDC for it to be invested in regions through the creation of new projects.

Anyway, I think this supplementary finance law 2015 reinforces investment in general, though the commercial sector still remains excluded from the scope of state incentives.

Is the capital increase of BFPME sufficient to achieve the objectives?

This is a highly encouraging decision for BFPME, especially since it is part of a global vision that will transform the BFPME into a real bank of regions. This measure pushes us to greater efforts, while ensuring better collaboration with our various partners.

What about the restructuring program implemented by the government since 2014?

This program has already started, the applications of 70 companies were accepted and experts have been appointed. These experts will be responsible for preparing the restructuring plans of SMEs targeted by the program; their number will be 200 within budget allocated to the program.

This program has created a very interesting dynamic at regional level, through full transparency vis-à-vis our partners. This demonstrated that the State is at the service of projects that go through difficulties.

Indeed, quite a number of Tunisian SMEs experienced a difficult period as a result of the economic and social impact of the Tunisian Revolution of 2011. These difficulties relate in particular to the project implementation period, the damage sustained following the social demands and loss of markets.

Given this situation, the Ministry of Finance, in partnership with BFPME, SOTUGAR and regional SICARs, has set up a National Program for Support to SMEs who are going through economic difficulties, with a total budget of 100 million Tunisian dinars, included in the complementary State Budget under 2014. This program aims to cover 200 SMEs generating about 5,000 job positions via the rescue, in particular, of SMEs facing economic difficulties since the Tunisian Revolution 2011. It is based on five funding mechanisms that are the accompanying diagnostic and assistance mechanism, the equity building mechanism, the mechanism of participatory credit, the investment bank credit mechanism and the guarantee mechanism.

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