PRO PME, which specialises in financing small and medium-sized enterprises, was one of the first financial institutions to benefit from the European Investment Bank’s technical assistance programme for EIB financial operations in West and Central Africa. Planned before the outbreak of the Covid 19 crisis, the capacity-building measures took on their full meaning in this difficult context.   

Two years after the start of the program, we wanted to get the impressions of Pro PME’S managing director on the support received.

Hello Mr EDZOA, can you introduce yourself and PRO PME?

An engineer by training and holder of a post-graduate diploma in management, I have been managing PRO PME for the past four years, having risen through the ranks since I joined the company in 1998. 

At that time, the activities were still carried out within the framework of the Cameroonian SME Strengthening Project, the result of cooperation between Canada and Cameroon. In 2000, the transformation of the project into a limited company gave birth to PRO PME, which is registered as a financial institution. This means that we cannot collect sight or short-term deposits, which is a major constraint for the development of our activities.

However, PRO PME has been resilient, and over the last 20 plus years, has continued to offer services to SMEs mainly in the economic capital of Cameroon.

What impact has the Covid 19 crisis had on the institution?

The health crisis has amplified the deterioration of the portfolio quality, which was already noticeable in the previous months.  We assessed the immediate and potential impacts on each of our clients. This exercise resulted in a classification of the credit portfolio by risk level according to the repercussions suffered or expected on the various activities.

With regard to the business environment, it should be noted that some sectors that were severely impacted by COVID 19 are timidly recovering. This is the case, in particular, for the tourism, imported goods trade and transport sectors. 

How do you see the outlook for the next 12 months?

After a drastic drop in the volume of loans disbursed due to the pandemic, we expect loan production to triple by the end of December 2021 compared to the figures achieved at the end of June. We have reorganised and strengthened our sales team to achieve our objectives.

To better secure its commitments, PRO PME should also benefit from a portfolio guarantee of CFAF 3 billion to cushion the effects of the Covid 19 crisis on SMEs’ activities, within the framework of an agreement signed with the Cameroonian government.

Can you describe the context of the collaboration with the EIB and the benefits derived from the technical assistance?

PRO PME has had a long-standing relationship with the EIB, which granted it an initial line of credit in 2003. Two others followed, enabling it to finance its growth. After a period of interruption, a fourth loan was signed in 2019 for an amount of EUR 5 million.

Technical assistance is provided to accompany this last line of credit.

To date, the support provided by the EIB has enabled PRO PME to improve its Covid 19 crisis management system and its credit analysis tool. An asset-liability management tool was also proposed. PRO PME also benefited from the evaluation of its portfolio at risk and support in its management.  

The overall support program is useful and beneficial to the teams.

In conclusion, what would be your recommendations?

We hope that the EIB will continue to support us technically by deepening certain elements of the technical assistance received, and by continuing its financial support. This will, thus, contribute to PRO PME’s sustainability by providing a support tool to SMEs.