Ben Bierman, Managing Director of Business Partners Limited

The Netherlands - Business Partners Limited was named Gold winner in the SME Bank of the Year – Africa category at the Global SME Finance Forum Awards earlier this month.

Business Partners Limited – one of Africa’s leading business loan and equity providers – has successfully developed one of the world’s most innovative risk finance models for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The company has provided close to R20 billion in finance in over 71,000 transactions to business owners over the last 38 years.

Organised by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the SME Finance Forum and endorsed by the G20’s Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI), the Global SME Finance Awards celebrate the outstanding achievements of financial institutions and fintech companies in delivering exceptional products and services to their SME clients.

This year’s award winners were selected from a competitive pool of 144 applicants. A panel of independent judges chose the winners based on their Reach, Uniqueness and Innovation, Effectiveness and Impact, and Dynamism and Scalability.

Ben Bierman, Managing Director of Business Partners Limited said: “We are honoured to receive this esteemed accolade and pledge our commitment to continue supporting business owners and contributing to the improvement of the SME sector in Africa.

“We started out focusing only on South Africa and the adaptability of our business finance model has been proven through our successful expansion into six other African countries namely Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia. This continental footprint and accomplishment likely contributed to Business Partners Limited being selected as the Gold awardee.”

Paulo de Bolle, Senior Director, Global Industry, Financial Markets, Global Financial Institutions Group at the International Finance Corporation said: “The Global SME Finance Awards recognise and reward innovation in small business lending that can improve financing for SMEs, helping small businesses grow and create jobs. Innovations in lending technology and business models, can significantly reduce the cost of serving SMEs.”

Matthew Gamser, CEO of the SME Finance Forum said: “We hope the winners of the Global SME Finance Awards will inspire SME financiers all over the world to learn from their good practices. The awards provide the winners with an opportunity to showcase good practices on the global stage and foster learning amongst their peers."

The Global SME Finance Awards also introduced a new category this year - Women-owned SME Bank of the Year. This important new award allows financial institutions and fintech companies to showcase achievements and advances in specifically supporting women-owned SMEs.

Natascha Beinker, Deputy Head of Division at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and Co-Chair of the SME Finance Subgroup of G20 GPFI said: “The Global SME Finance Awards put the spotlight on two key issues - responsible innovation and responsible financing, which are an integral part of the financial inclusion agenda. 

"As demonstrated by this year’s and last year’s Awards winners, product innovations can lower costs and allow SME financiers to better serve previously underserved and unserved SMEs, particularly women-owned SMEs.”