Development of Credit Facilities in Sierra Leone
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Published: Fri, 09 Feb 2018
This study is on the creation of credit facilities to Small and Medium Size Enterprises in Sierra Leone with special focus on the construction industries.
1.1 Background to the Economy of Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is a relatively small country, on the West Coast of Africa with an area of approximately 28,000square miles. The estimated population is 5.5 million inhabitants, 30% of whom resides in the western area of the country according to recent census in 2006.
The state of the country’s economy, immediately after independence from the British Colony in 1961 up to the 1970’s, was quite satisfactory in terms of performance. The exchange rate between the Leone and other foreign currencies was relatively good. More so, the British Pound Sterling was exchanged at One pound (£1) to One Leone (Le1). The inflation rate was extremely low. The country’s earnings from exports were very much attractive, with Diamond export accounting for well over 50% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. This was closely followed by cash crop exports such as Cocoa, coffee, oil palm, piassava and chillies. The country’s external debt position at this time was not high,
Between 1972 to 1975, the economy started experiencing down turn that was mainly due to external factors, such as the famous oil price shock in 1973. Naturally, the 1980 Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU) summit that was hosted by the government of Sierra Leone fuelled the debt crisis in Sierra Leone.
Because of the foreign exchange scarcity in the country, the credit agreement between domestic importers and their business partners aboard collapsed. In 1988, the country was forced to devalue her currency.
Between 1992 and 1994, Sierra Leone successfully implemented an adjustment program supported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) under the Right Accumulation Program (RAP). The World Bank also supported the program through the Reconstruction of Import Credit (RIC) in 1992 and the Structural Adjustment Credit (SAC) in 1993. Following the successful implementation of the RAP, the IMF approved a three year arrangement support under Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF). The implementation of the first annual program was disrupted by the escalation of the rebel activities in 1995. With the return of democracy in 1996, the IMF supported the economic recovery program adopted by the new Government with a second annual program under the ESAF.
Poverty intensified with real per capita declining to US$142 in 2000. Since then Sierra Leone has been classified as the poorest country in the world and ranks at the bottom of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index.
The growth in the economy has been underpinned by broad recovery in Agriculture, mining, manufacturing, construction and the service sector.
The economy of the Country continues to worsen in early 1992 when the civil unrest started which causes untold sufferings on humans and the entire country. Many people were forced out of their houses and eventually became displaced persons and refugees in their own country and neighbouring country like Guinea, The Gambia and Ghana. Almost all segments of the business economy collapsed including banking and lending institutions. It was then the problems of growth in economy worsen and every thing completely deteriorated and collapsed.
The almost 11 years of civil unrest ended in March 2002. The end of the war actually opens the door for a new beginning, for new economic growth and prosperity in the face of peace and unity. The situation has recently worsened because of the credit crunch faced by many of the world famous banking institutions and Sierra Leone has not been any exceptions. The effect coupled with other factors has created more gaps for banking institutions to provide loans to small and medium enterprises. In a press release from Prlog Dec. 15, 2008 by Robin Trehan as quoted “SMEs represent over ninety-nine percent of the country’s employers. While it is essential that these businesses obtain the necessary funding to remain active, they are often the first to suffer when financial crisis hits. Banks already facing financial hardship often deem SMEs as too risky to finance. Credit terms are becoming increasingly harder and qualifying for financing is subject to much stricter guidelines. There are things that SMEs can do, however, to increase their chances of finding financing”.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The term credit in this thesis refers to an amount or sum placed at a person’s disposal by a bank and usually to be repaid with interest within a given period of time. Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SME) is very important in terms of the dynamic role in the development of the private sector in Sierra Leone. The SME’s are regarded as an engine for any economic growth and development in any country.
They provide opportunities for job creation and expansion in the physical reconstruction of the economy especially for a post war development country like Sierra Leone. Majority of the physical infrastructures ranging from housing, office buildings and business structures were all destroyed during the civil unrest. These structures need to be reconstructed for the economy to grow and become prosper. Today many construction companies or firms have emerged to assist in the rehabilitation and reconstruction.
While there may be some of the construction companies who have existed of years, it is also true that majority of these construction companies are new ones who are just coming up to help and provide their expertise in the development of Sierra Leone. But yet still, it is a challenge for many of these companies to adequately involve in the process of rehabilitation and reconstruction simply because they cannot get the required finance in the form of overdraft or loans, or provide the necessary collateral for the banks as required, making them less competitive.
In Sierra Leone the performance of SME’s over the years has been very poor which is due to the fact that the creation of credit from the banks which is an essential stimulant for private investment in the construction industries has been grossly under performing. This is one of the reasons for poor performance of the economy in terms of growth in most developing countries including Sierra Leone.
Construction companies have not been able to access huge funds by way of loan over the years from the banking and other financial institutions, mainly due to lack of confidence in the private sector as a result of problems like moral hazards and the absence of collateral security and the lack of experience in construction engineering.
1.3 Justification of the Study
The importance of the construction industries in the process of rehabilitation and reconstruction of the war towns in Sierra Leone cannot be over-emphasized. During the war there was so much destruction of infrastructures in the country, now that there is peace there is high need for reconstructions and the development of new roads and structures to aid national growth.
International organisations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, African Development Bank (ADB) main focus is to assist Small Medium Size Enterprises (SME) in developing countries gain strong financial base. It had been felt that SMEs employ majority of the work force in the developing countries, therefore, they have realised that when SME become financially stable the economy of the nation will be better and that the citizens will be able to live a comfortable life.
The role of commercial banks and other financial institutions in private sector development and the assessment of their overall performance in terms of economic growth and development has not received much of the attention by researchers. The central bank maintaining interest rate at high level has greatly contributed to discourage SMEs from borrowing from retail banks and other financial institution for investment purposes.
This is one of the reasons why most SMEs are under developed. Besides commercial banks are requesting for very stiff conditions to access loan by the private sector. A study on the provision of credit to construction companies for investment towards economic growth has not been studied in greater detail by previous researchers. This among others, gave me the urge to probe into the activities of the commercial banks and other financial institutions in the creation of credit to construction companies in Sierra Leone,
This study is to help government and other professionals as well as other stakeholders, to grasp fully the implications of credit refusal to small and medium size enterprises and how it will affect the development of the nation. The result of this study is hope to enable banking and other financial institutions, local and national government and other stakeholders to device concrete ways by which small and medium size enterprises can easily get access to credit to undertake construction programmes.
1.4 Objectives of the study
The main aim of the study is to assess the implications of credit creations by the banks and other financial institutions to Small and Medium Size Enterprises with special focus on the Construction Industries for economic growth and development in Sierra Leone.
The specific objectives are:
- To determine the extent to which banks have been contributing to the development of the construction industries in Sierra Leone.
- To examine some of the reasons responsible for the inability of the construction industries to solicit loans from the banks and other financial institutions for the purpose of investment.
- To establish reasons for the reluctance of the banking and other financial institutions to provide the much needed funds for private sector development.
- To examine the reasons for the reluctance of the banking sector to provide the much needed funds for SME in the construction industries for development, even though SME’s are regarded as the engine of economic growth.
1.5 Research Questions:
Certain research questions will be drawn up for proper examination of this objective. These include:
- To what extent do commercial banks provide funds to Small and Medium Size Enterprises in the construction Industries?
- What are the main problems encountered by the construction companies in terms of securing loans and overdrafts from the commercial banks?
- What is responsible for the low investment of the private sector (SME’s) in Sierra Leone?
- What is the role of the central bank in facilitating credit creation for SME’s in the pursuit of development in Sierra Leone?
- What is the role of the Government ministry in the area of infrastructural developmental plans for Sierra Leone?
The study will make use of secondary data received from the Bank of Sierra Leone, Commercial Banks and some of the registered construction companies in Sierra Leone.
The study will try to reveal the reasons for the constraints Small and Medium size Enterprises are facing in securing credit facilities from the banks. Interviews will be conducted with senior officers of both the banking industries and construction sectors, together with government officers in the area of national development for the country.
1.6 Definition of Operational Terms:
1. Credit Creation: Credit creation is the multiple expansions of banks demand deposits. It is an open secret now that banks advance a major portion of their deposits to the borrowers and keep smaller parts of deposits to the customers on demand.
2. Venture Capital: Venture Capital is the name given to equity finance provided to support new, expanding and entrepreneurial businesses. Venture capitalists usually prefer to take a close interest in the business that is the subject of their investment. This could involve taking part in decision made by the business. Funds provided by venture capitalist are often referred to as private capital.(Mclaney E, 2003)
3. Gearing: Small businesses are in a fundamentally different position from that of the larger one on the issue of gearing. Financial risk to which capital gearing gives rise tends to emphasise operating risk, which will be present with or without gearing. Small businesses are more exposed to financial risk than public liability companies. (Mclaney, 2003)
4. Bank and Institutional Debt: Long term loans are available from banks and other financial institutions at both fixed and floating interest rates, provided the issuing bank is convinced that the purpose of the loan is a good one. The cost of bank loan is usually a floating rate of 3-6 percent above the base rate, depending on the perceived risk of the borrowing company. The issuing bank charges an arrangement fee on bank loans, which are usually secured by a fixed and floating charge, the nature of the charge depending on the availability of assets of good quality to act as security.
A repayment schedule is often agreed between the bank and the borrowing company, structured to meet the specific needs of the borrower and in accordance with the lending policies of the bank. (Watson D & Head A, 2007)
5. Security –the Bank’s Perspective: A bank has little to lose and much to gain by taking security for a loan. A bank’s solicitor should check that the borrower and any other party providing security have capacity to do so. (The company act 1989, prima facie, a company could pursue only the objects for which its memorandum stated it was incorporated)
6. Security – the Borrower’s Perspective: It is often difficult for a borrower to argue against a reasonable request for security. However, some borrowers will be contractually prohibited from providing security by a negative pledge in a document to which they are already a party. Specialised lending for financing a project will always be secured over the asset or project in question. (Adams D, 2006)
7. Cash Flow Statements for Small Companies: Financial Report Standard (FRS1) prescribes a format for cash flow statements. Except for very small companies, all companies are required to prepare a cash flow statement for each accounting period.
There are two approaches available under the standard; the direct method which shows the operating cash receipts and payments summing to the net cash flow from operating activities, and the indirect method which identifies the net cash flow via reconciliation to operating profit. (Wood F, 2002).
The purpose of this chapter is to make a review of related literature on Small and Medium isze Enterprises and the Creation of Credit in the Construction Industry. With these literatures the researcher will have a better understanding of the study, as well as what has already been done on it in the form of previous research.
2.2 Definition of Small and Medium Size Enterprises
A business can be considered small on basis of predetermined criteria such as the number of employees, annual turnover or capital employed. In the late 1990s, it was estimated that small businesses with fewer than 50 employees accounted for 99 per cent of all UK business, almost 50 per cent of non government employment and 42 per cent of turnover. Small firms have become a focus for governmental policy at both national and intergovernmental level. Bolton in his report in 1971 identified three main characteristics of a small firm:
- were independently owned – The business securities are not quoted in any established capital market that is they are not traded in the efficient market.
- were managed in a personalised way- The ownership of the business’s equity and hence its control lie in the hands of a small close knit-group; that is it is a family type business.
- possessed a limited share of the total market
2.3 Nature of Small and Medium Size Enterprises
The Bolton report, the first official government inquiry into small firms attempted to establish standard definitions of small firms for particular sector of industry based on numerical indicators of size such as sales or number of employees. A firm with 250 employees in a labour intensive industry may still be a small firm. (Brown, 1987)
Criteria for Small and Medium Size Enterprises
Number of Employees
Maximum Annual Turnover (euros)
Maximum Balance balance sheet total
2 million euros
10 – 49
10 million euros
50 – 249
2.4 Objectives of Small and Medium Size Enterprises
In SME’s the managers and the shareholders are likely to be substantially the same person or at least closely connected with one another. Thus agency problems, and their potential associated costs, are likely to have little or possibly no impact on the typical small business.
Because of the elimination of agency gap, most managers of SME’s are shareholder; they would make decisions following a pure wealth-maximising goal more determinedly than would be the case in the typical large enterprise. The motives of managers or owners of small businesses are diverse. These motives might be the desire to experience the satisfaction of building up a business, a desire to lead a particular way of life, or a desire to keep someone (perhaps family) tradition alive.
Since it is possible for managers to know the personal objectives of shareholders of small business, decisions can probably be made with these in mind. Both large and small businesses that makes a series of decisions causing the wealth to diminish, will sooner or later fail. Wealth maximisation goal is very important to small business and cannot be ignored.
2.5 Organisation of Small and Medium Enterprises
The research will consider Small and Medium Size Enterprises in the construction industries that are organised as private limited companies. According to Mclaney (2003) private companies need be of no minimum size; public companies must issue at least £50,000 of nominal share capital, of which 25% must be paid up. There is no upper limit on the size of a private company.
Private companies are entitled to restrict the transfer of their shares; that is it is possible for the company’s Articles of Association to contain a clause giving the directors the power to refuse to register a transfer, at their discretion. While private companies must publish annual accounts, the volume of details is rather less than that which the law requires of public companies.
2.6 Sources of Finance for Small and Medium Size Enterprises
Several inquires have dealt with the financing of SMEs and each of these enquires discovered, to a greater extent, that small businesses find it more difficult and more expensive to raise external finance.
A particular problem faced by small businesses in their quest for equity capital is the lack of an `exit route’. Generally investors require that there be some way of liquidating their investment before they are prepared to commit funds to it. A number of schemes have been introduced to help small businesses:
2.6.1. The loan Guarantee Scheme (LGS)
as first introduced in 1981 to cover situations were potential borrowers were unable to provide sufficient collateral or where the bank deem the risk of lending unacceptable.
2.6.2. The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) –
This scheme replaced the Business Expansion Scheme (BES) and it is designed to help small unquoted companies to raise equity finance from business angels
2.6.3.The Venture Capital Trust (VCT) –
The trust was introduced in 1995 to encourage individuals to invest in smaller, unlisted trading companies. Venture Capital is the name given to equity finance provided to support new, expanding and entrepreneurial businesses. Venture capitalists usually prefer to take a close interest in the business. This could involve taking part in decision made by the business. Funds provided by venture capitalist are often referred to as private capital.(Mclaney E, 2003)
2.6.4. The Enterprise Fund (EF) –
it was announced in the competitiveness white paper in 1998 and is designed to help the financing of small businesses with growth potential.
2.6.5. The National Business Angel Network (NBAN) –
it was launched in 1999 to connect ‘business angels’ with companies seeking equity capital
2.6.6. The late payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) act 1998
gives certain small businesses a statutory right to claim interest from large businesses and the public sector on late payment of commercial debts.
Small businesses are in a fundamentally different position from that of the larger one on the issue of gearing. Financial risk to which capital gearing gives rise tends to emphasise operating risk, which will be present with or without gearing. Small businesses are more exposed to financial risk than public liability companies.(Mclaney,2003)
2.8 Help and Advice to Small Businesses
One of the major barriers faced by SMEs is the lack of information, help and advice on their operations. Recent initiative to improve this sphere includes:
2.8.1. The business link network – organised in 1993 as a ‘one stop shop’ for information and advice to SMEs. It brings together the services of major business development services in the single accessible location.
2.8.2. The Enterprise Zone – launched in 1997 as a definitive internet site for business information. It provides help on a whole range of business issues.
2.8.3. The Information Society Initiative/Interforum E-Commerce Award – launched in 1999 as part of government’s e-commerce strategy. It is essentially an award scheme to recognise and reward best practice in the use of electronic trading among smaller firms.
2.9 Bank and Institutional Debt
Long term loans are available from banks and other financial institutions at both fixed and floating interest rates, provided the issuing bank is convinced that the purpose of the loan is a good one. The cost of bank loan is usually a floating rate of 3-6 percent above the base rate, depending on the perceived risk of the borrowing company. The issuing bank charges an arrangement fee on bank loans, which are usually secured by a fixed and floating charge, the nature of the charge depending on the availability of assets of good quality to act as security. A repayment schedule is often agreed between the bank and the borrowing company, structured to meet the specific needs of the borrower and in accordance with the lending policies of the bank. (Watson D & Head A, 2007)
2.10 Security –the Bank’s Perspective
A bank has little to lose and much to gain by taking security for a loan. A bank’s solicitor should check that the borrower and any other party providing security have capacity to do so. (The company act 1989, prima facie, a company could pursue only the objects for which its memorandum stated it was incorporated)
2.11 Security – the Borrower’s Perspective
It is often difficult for a borrower to argue against a reasonable request for security. However, some borrowers will be contractually prohibited from providing security by a negative pledge in a document to which they are already a party. Specialised lending for financing a project will always be secured over the asset or project in question. (Adams D,2006)
2.12 Working Capital Problems of the Small Business
Working capital is the difference between current assets over current liabilities. The amount invested by businesses in working capital is often high in proportion to the total assets employed. It is important that these amounts are managed properly. It is often claimed that many small businesses suffer from a lack of capital and, where this is the case, tight control over working capital investment becomes critical. There are evidence, however, that SB are not very good at managing their working capital, and this has been cited as the major cause of their high failure rate compared with that of large businesses.
2.13 Credit Management
Small businesses don’t have the resources to manage their trade debtors (account receivables) effectively. Most small businesses don’t have a credit control department. Small business also lack proper debt collection procedures, such as prompt invoicing and sending out regular statements.
These risks probably tend to increase where there is an excessive concern for growth. In an attempt to increase sales, small businesses may be too willing to extend credit to customers that are poor credit risk
Lack of market power is another issue for small businesses. They find themselves in a weak position when negotiating credit terms with larger businesses. When big customer exceeds the terms of credit, the small supplier may feel inhibited from pressing the customer for payment in case future sales are lost. (A survey undertaken by the Credit Management Research Centre (CMRC) during April and June, 2003, indicates that small businesses are likely to have to wait an average of 60 days for their trade debtors to pay.
2.14 Cash Flow Statements for Small Companies
Financial Report Standard (FRS1) prescribes a format for cash flow statements. Except for very small companies, all companies are required to prepare a cash flow statement for each accounting period. There are two approaches available under the standard; the direct method which shows the operating cash receipts and payments summing to the net cash flow from operating activities, and the indirect method which identifies the net cash flow via reconciliation to operating profit.(Wood F,2002)
2.15 Definition of Credit Creation
The BNET business dictionary defines credit creation as the collective ability of lenders to make money available to borrowers. Credit creation is the multiple expansions of banks demand deposits. Banks advance a major portion of their deposits to the borrowers and keep smaller parts of deposits to customers on demand. The tendency on the part of commercial banks to expand their demand deposits as a multiple of their excess cash reserve is called creation of credit.
2.16 Functions of Financial Intermediation in Credit Creation
Financial intermediation is the process of channelling funds between those who wish to lend or invest and those who wish to borrow or require investment funds. Financial intermediaries act as principal, creating new financial assets and liabilities. They do not act solely as agents, charging a commission for their services. (The Monetary and Financial System-CIB/BPP Publication 1993 Edition)
Any institution standing between the ultimate provider of funds and the ultimate user of funds is engaged in financial intermediation. There are many types of institutions and other organisations that act as intermediaries in matching firms and individuals who need finance with those who wish to invest. These institutions also provide other services which are non-intermediary services like financial advisory services, fund management services and advice to undertakers and mergers provider by merchant banks. Some of the organisation that acts as financial intermediaries is as follows:
2.16.1 Clearing Banks – this bank participate in system which simplifies daily payment so that all the thousands of individual customer payments are reduced to a few transfers of credit between the banks. They offer various accounts to investors and provide large amount of short to medium-term loans to the business sector and the personal sector. The work of these institutions can best be understood through a consideration of the main items in their balance sheet.
2.16.2 Clearing Bank Liabilities – The money from the banks responsible comes chiefly from their customer’s sight and time deposits- mostly current and deposit accounts with which most people are familiar. An important additional item relates to certificates of deposit. These are issued generally for a medium amount of £50,000 and a maximum of £500,000 with an initial term to maturity of from three months to five years.
Clearing Bank Assets Customers’ money is re-lent in a variety of ways. The main aim of the bank is to have a range of lending instruments of varying terms so that money can be recovered quickly and yet, at the same time, earn the maximum return.
2.16.3 Investment Banks / Merchant Banks
The investment banks or Merchant banks have some functions that they undertake:
2.16.3.i Financial Advice to Business Firms
Few manufacturing or commercial companies of any size can now afford to be without the advice of a merchant bank. Such advice is necessary in order to obtain investment capital, to invest surplus funds, to guard against takeover, or to take over others. Increasingly, the merchant banks have themselves become activity involved in the financial management of their business client and have had an influence over the direction these affairs have taken.
2.16.3.ii Providing Finance to Business
Merchant banks also compete in the services of leasing, factoring, hire-purchase and general lending. They are also the gateway to the capital market for long-term funds because they are likely to have specified departments handling capital issues as ‘issuing houses’.
2.16.4 Foreign Trade
A lot of merchant bank are active in the promotion of foreign trade by providing marine insurance, credits, and assistance in appointing foreign agents and arranging foreign payments. Merchant bank is essentially in the general business of creating wealth and of helping those who show that they are capable of successful business enterprise. It is expected that merchant banks will operate without the large branch network necessary for a clearing bank, they work closely with their clients and be more ready to take business risk and promote business enterprise than clearing bank.
2.16.5 Building Societies
These take deposits from the household sector and lend to individuals buying their own homes. They have recently grown rapidly in the UK and now provide many of the services offered by clearing banks. Over the years many have converted to banks.
2.16.6 Finance Companies/Houses – Providing medium-term instalment credits to the business and personal sector. These are usually owned by business sector firms or by other financial itermediaries.
2.17 Services Provided by Financial Institutions
Financial institutions are organisations that provide services in connection with one or more of the following:-
Financial intermediation, linking ultimate providers of funds with ultimate users and creating new financial assets in the process.
Exchanging financial assets on behalf of their customers, that is acting as brokers or agents for clients.
Exchanging financial assets for their own accounts – proprietary dealers, as they are termed.
Helping to create financial assets for their customers, and then selling these assets to others in the market – underwriting new share issues, for example
Providing investment advice to others, example to people seeking a personal pension or to firms on mergers and takeovers.
Fund management- managing the whole or part of a pension fund, for example some large non-financial companies have their own financial subsidiaries. In the United Kingdom Ford Motor Finance and Mark and Spencer Finance Se
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