BY DAMA KALAMA
COVID 19 shocks continue to ravage the financial economy, as Savings and Credit Co-operative Organisations (Saccos) struggle to stay afloat through restructural programs in their borrowing and lending systems.
Since this dreadful disease hit the country on March 13, 2020 the Saccos have endured a significant dip in borrowing and repayment of loans from their members’ majority of who are opting to restructure their loans putting the credit cooperatives’ future in disarray.
The latest casualty is Ecobiz Limited – Savings and Credit Co-operative for SMEs in Kenya – which has witnessed members, stop borrowing and instead pushing management to restructure their loans as the effects of coronavirus continue to bite.
Wanjiku Wambugu, the Ecobiz founder, says most depositors have requested for loan moratorium while others have stopped remitting their dues due to economic hardhsips facing them.
“The effects of Covid-19 are insurmountable to Saccos that are facing miserable times with less money coming in and incomes dwindling in leaps,” she adds.
According to her the lending facility is now in a ‘wait-and-see’ situation with hopes of a bright future should the Covid-19 curve be flattened and restrictions eased by the government.
“We are all experiencing tough times and debt collection can push members to the wall. What we are doing is to call them around and work out restructures of how to repay their loans using customer-friendly payment modes,” she says.
The lender is now adopting interest free loan to small traders especially in markets to ensure their businesses continue running so that eventually they can be able to pay their loans when the economic shocks dust settles.
“The focus has been on SMEs, and the creative so whatever has happened has happened to everyone and income flow had drastically reduced because the saving power has reduced. The repayment power is not coming before,” she adds.
Registered in 2013, Ecobiz was intent on empowering the low income cadre and especially the youth who form a large part of the creative arts’ sector.
Currently, members have had their loans payment restructured to ensure they can navigate without necessarily facing more harships during this Covid-19 crisis.
Through this awareness about the saving culture, the youth have been empowered to qualify for financing of their small trades using their saving as collateral.
The board members of Ecobiz are all inclusive and are drawn from various SME’s, MSMES as well as the creatives.
BENEFITS OF SAVINGS
Ecobiz is continuously working on creating awareness on the benefits of saving and is especially targeting the creative’s who have largely been ignored in the past.
According to the founder they have designed products that are aligned to their unique needs and circumstances.
“Further, we are purposeful about keeping our clients businesses afloat in view of the adverse effect of the current pandemic. We do this by continuous training and offering flexibility,” she says.
In response to the market demands of technologically savvy products, she says the credit facility is in the final stages of launching digital products that are sure to place our products at the tips of their fingers offer our client’s better flexibility to our products.
“By going into partnerships with various SME’s Ecobiz is continuously conducting training programs and offering advisory sessions, on online and offline platforms,” she adds.
Towards this end, the Sacco has forged partnerships with various institutions like Mastercard, Vukisha, and Kenya National Chambers of Commerce and Industry, WIB among others.