British International Investment

Groupe Cofina

Impact of our funds’ portfolio: How an African bank is providing loans for women-owned SMEs

What’s the challenge?

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) estimates that 40 per cent of micro, small and medium (MSMEs) in developing countries have unmet financing needs. Together these add up to a $5.2 trillion annual financing gap. What’s more, the World Bank estimates that 600 million jobs will be needed to absorb the global workforce by 2030, and as SMEs make up for around half of global employment their growth is critical to meeting this need.

This is even more so the case in emerging markets, where 70 per cent of jobs are created by SMEs. And yet small businesses struggle to get finance from traditional lenders such as banks. This restricted access to finance stifles the prosperity of families, communities and economies in Africa.

In West Africa, banks and low levels of private equity activity are currently struggling to meet the financing needs of SMEs, hampering their potential as engines of economic growth in the region.

The problem is greater when you factor in gender. Globally, women are less likely to have access to finance than men. In 2017, the World Bank found that in sub-Saharan Africa, only 37 per cent of women had a bank account, compared with 48 per cent of men.

$5.2 trillion

The financing gap for emerging market SMEs

How is the business tackling this challenge?

Groupe Cofina is a leading financing business for SMEs in Central and West Africa. Operating across seven countries, the group helps entrepreneurs and SMEs to obtain medium-or-long term financing that’s not available to them via traditional banks or microfinance institutions.

Cofina does this through a diligent credit scoring system with built-in flexibility to allow it to provide loans where other banks cannot.

To date, the lender has reached 175k customers – nearly half of whom (45 per cent) are women – and financed approximately 93,800 projects. It’s also employed around 1,300 people, 47 per cent of who are women, and provided training for almost 1,200 employees.

Adapting to COVID conditions in 2020 and the needs of its customers, Cofina adopted a ‘case by case’ approach to its portfolio, reviewing some of its loan maturities and supporting clients on their post-COVID strategy.

In 2018, Groupe Cofina acquired MiMOYE Finances, a microfinance company based in Cote d’Ivoire, and dedicated to providing financing options for female entrepreneurs and majority women-owned companies. The acquisition reflected the company’s commitment to supporting women and the role that women play in African economic growth. Rebranded as ‘Finance pour Elle’, the group plans to allocate $26 million of funding to female entrepreneurship.

Groupe Cofina is also supporting new entrepreneurs by running the programme ‘Cofina Startup House’, a start-up incubator that aids companies in their creation and gestation phases by providing co-working spaces, coaching, networking and fundraising.


We are invested in Cofina through our commitment to Mediterrania Capital III, which is managed by Mediterrania Capital Partners. We invested in the fund in 2017.

The fund targets investments in North Africa with a smaller exposure to Francophone West and Central Africa. Investments in these businesses will provide the capital and expertise to support expansion and will help create new direct and indirect jobs, particularly for semi-skilled and unskilled workers in a region where youth unemployment is a particular challenge.



Subscribe to receive our latest news and updates