Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Thabo Thamane has said stringent measures introduced by the agency have begun to pay dividends, as the institution collected a record P515 million in last financial year.
The measures are part of Thamane’s ambition to transform the 19 year old financial development institution into a self-sustaining agency.
Thamane expects CEDA to be fully self-sustaining within the next 6 years, following a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) entered into with Malaysian based SME Bank, a state owned financial development institution.
“We collected P515 million, that’s more than half a billion. This was the first time in the 19 year history of the institution that we have collected that much. Our target was P440 million and we went beyond our target,” Thamane told WeekendPost this week. Thamane attributes this success to prioritising collection rate when he took over the reins, a feat achieved amid strenuous effort.
“When I was appointed, there was a general laxity from people that, because it was CEDA a quasi-government [institution] people did not want to pay their loans,” he said. “People were not forthcoming because of that mentality, so we had to curb the wheel, and we seriously did. It changed the mindset of the people, they now know if they owe CEDA, they have to pay because we keep them on their toes. We needed that.”
The CEDA chief said the reforms introduced proved to be unpopular, but he was adamant that it was a necessary devil.
“People were crying and politicians were complaining that there was ‘In a matter between’ in every newspaper involving CEDA and their clients. I told them I had to and every relationship has to end at some stage. Either you pay the loan or we go to court. We developed a collection team dedicated toward phoning people,” he said.
“Government gives us about P250 million as subvention, and we raise P600 million internally. The government subvention we don’t use it for rent or other operational costs, it goes to financing projects.”
PROJECT FACILITATION FUND AS GAME CHANGER
CEDA in partnership with Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) recently introduced Project Facilitation Fund, which is a pre-project funding targeting high impact projects with strong focus on agro-processing, manufacturing and tourism.
“The Project Facilitation Fund was the minister [Bogolo Kenewendo] vision to develop the SME through her apex model. CEDA falls in the SME apex. We realised that there are certain legal and regulatory requirements, as much as they are good and necessary legal requirements, that have an impact on SMEs,” he said.
“This is so because SMEs are now unable to access capital, as a result of that, they cannot access the market. Consequently people just stay home with dreams, and they cannot do anything. This is what usually lead to people being frustrated and some even accusing CEDA of selling their ideas when somebody succeeds in the same business they wanted to do.”
Thamane noted that Project Facilitation Fund will be in the form money accessed in order to finance certain pre-requisite requirements for certain projects such as Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), product testing and processing certification, diligence, valuation reports, soil and water test, borehole test, structural reports among others.
Though the initiative can accommodate other projects in exceptional cases, the focus is in high impact projects in agro-processing, manufacturing and tourism.
“If you look at these sectors Batswana are spectators. We have the data that shows how many Batswana are into these sectors. We as CEDA deliberately said we will focus on these sectors,” Thamane said.
According to Thamane, CEDA is doing a manufacturing study, which will inform the agency on opportunities avail and what to fund. He said the study will assess the import bill and also offer suggestion on the low hanging fruits.
“We want to move to a situation whereby we direct people where to venture because we are the owners of the funds and we can dictate where the funds go. We want people to use the entire value chain of primary production of goods. There has to be on who grows, then one who processes and finally the one who sells to market,” he said.
“One the biggest problems facing SMEs is that, one would want to do everything in the entire value chain. It affects efficiencies.
“The next phase, we need to digitize our platforms so that people do not come to our office, they just communicate via our apps. Very soon we will unveil some of those apps. We want to leverage on technology as delivery channel.”
MERGING OF PUBLIC ENTREPRISES
Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry last year announced plans to review public enterprises, a process which has various implication which may include possible merging of quasi-government funding institutions such as National Development Bank (NDB), Botswana Development Corporation and CEDA among others.
“It’s a pity that people do not understand development finance. It is a very intruding landscape. You cannot mix micro-business with large businesses because at the end of the day we are going to focus more on large business at the expense of small business or then you focus on small businesses then you forget the large businesses,” he said.
Thamane is of the view that there is a risk of forgetting certain mandates if such was to happen. “I know what CEDA does, I have been here for the past 16 years; I know what LEA does, and I know what other financiers do. What is very critical is that we must be every carefully when making this analysis of merging public enterprises because their mandates were very specific,” he warned.
“It is one thing as for an institution that is not performing as per its mandate. If it does not perform, you do not just say you merge it. You basically say; why is it not performing? Is it the people or is it the mandate? So that is the starting point; If it is the people, you then put the right people so that they can make it perform; if it is the mandate, then review the mandate and then merge it with other institutions.”
Thamane contended that the last thing that government needs is to create a monster of an institution, because the bigger the institution, the bigger the process.
APPOINTMENT AS CHAIRMAN OF AADFI
Thamane was elected the Chairman of the Association of African Development Finance Institution (AADFI) at Annual General Assembly held in Malabo Equatorial Guinea in June this year AADFI currently has 82-member institutions and is headquartered in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
The association is a member of the World Federation of Development Finance Institutions and has observer status at the World Bank. Thamane takes over from the CEO of the Development Bank of South Africa.
“It is much easier for my own country to get capacity building and technical assistance. I can tell you this capacity building and technical assistance have been going to other countries because they attended these events,” said Thamane on the importance of the position.
“’In Botswana we do not attend these events because sometimes people believe it is a waste of resources. Yet we want good things to come to us, but we cannot expect good things to come to us, without being part of these events.”
As the leader of AADFI, Thamane is expected to led a delegation to Frankfurt on green climate fund financing. “It is something I have been advocating for to say, let us have a green fund, and let us have projects that are eco-friendly and encourage them.”