Equity Group Holdings Plc has signed a $100-million loan facility to help micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Kenya cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their businesses. The facility will enable the bank to keep lending to MSMEs to help reinforce resilience and growth during the pandemic and create job security and sustainable economic opportunities.
The bank collaborates on the facility with leading European development banks, including Germany Investment Corporation (DEG), CDC Group of the United Kingdom and FMO of the Netherlands, African Review reported.
In a statement, Equity Group Holdings Plc Group Managing Director and CEO James Mwangi stressed that the pandemic slowed down the economic activities of 40 percent of Kenyan small businesses. As a result, the bank’s “goal is to keep the lights of the economy on to sustain lives and livelihoods and facilitate the recovery of businesses as the economy begins to reopen,” he said.
Equity Group Holdings Plc is Africa’s largest bank with over 14 million customers as of December 2019. Despite its successes, numerous scandals have trailed Mwangi and the bank over the past decade.
In 2015, the Kenyan businessman was implicated in a multimillion-dollar scandal that involved the siphoning of about $100 million (Sh11 billion) from the National Youth Service. However, the government exonerated Mwangwi alongside four other CEOs of local banks after opting to settle out of court and to refund $3.5 million (Sh385 million) to the government, Capital FM reported.
Similarly, Kenyan human rights groups accused Equity Banks and Kenya Commercial Bank and Stanbic Bank of involvement in conflicts in South Sudan in 2018. In a Business & Human Rights Resource Center report, the banks were accused of facilitating carnage in South Sudan, which claimed the lives of 3 percent of the country’s population. They were accused of handling transactions worth millions of dollars that rewarded generals and warlords who profited from the illegal trade of oil and teak wood, thus fueling massacres in South Sudan.
Several months ago, Gadget Africa also reported incidents of Kenyan customers complaining that fraudsters were acquiring easy access to their Equity bank accounts. Some accused its staff of involvement in the fraudulent acts.