Local SME financier eager to grow
Newly appointed Namibia Country Manager to local small and medium enterprise (SME) financier, Business Partners International (BPI), Gerschwyne Van Wyk, is intent on growing Namibia’s entrepreneurial base as the country’s business opportunities continue to improve for the small business sector.
He said that the country is fast developing and that the marketplace is increasingly offering potential for entrepreneurs. “Namibia has always predominately focused on mining where larger business dominates, but this sector is dwindling, and in turn, is creating opportunities for other, more SME-friendly, sectors to flourish.
“The construction sector is booming and we are also witnessing a growth in the franchise market with franchisors from South Africa increasingly opening franchises in the country. Tourism is another sector currently growing across the country,” says Van Wyk.
While business opportunities in the country are growing, there are still challenges. The 2016 Doing Business Ease of Doing Business ranks Namibia 59 out of 189 global economies for getting capital, but 164 for starting a business.
Van Wyk’s first aspiration as Country Manager for the BPI’s Namibian Office is to position the company on the Namibian map so that the local community realises there is help available for local SMEs looking to grow their business.
The Namibia Fund forms part of Business Partners Southern Africa SME Fund launched in 2014 by Business Partners International (BPI), a subsidiary of Business Partners Limited situated in South Africa. This Fund provides risk finance to local entrepreneurs and SMEs in Namibia, as well as Malawi and Zambia. Van Wyk explains that it was launched to meet the growing demand for access to finance and technical assistance (mentorship) from small businesses in high growth economies in sub-Saharan Africa. Offering financing to viable owner-managed businesses between US$50 000 and US$1 million in Namibian Dollar equivalents, BPI Namibia has, to date, funded SMEs to the value of N$27.4 million. Van Wyk however believes there is scope to further grow this number further.
Coming from a banking background, Van Wyk spent over 10 years climbing the ranks at Bank Windhoek before pursuing his MBA in South Africa in 2015 and being appointed as Country Manager for the BPI’s Namibian Office on 1 March 2016.
During his time at Bank Windhoek, Van Wyk became an expert in collateral and credit before moving into training facilitation, which saw him travel across Botswana and Zambia as the bank branched into the SADC region.
It was at this time that he decided to actively pursue his ambition to obtain a MBA and began saving. Subsequent to completing the course at the end of 2015, he returned to Namibia to begin his journey with BPI. He explains how during his MBA course, his passion for small business sparked.
“I was involved in a social engagement project during the MBA where we had to get involved in communities and small businesses starting up through the Small Business Academy. During this project, we were able to help individuals put their business plans and projects into action and it was so rewarding,” said Van Wyk.
He said that during this time, he also realised that many businesses in the SME and entrepreneurial environment fail not because they are bad businesses, but because the owner is not in touch with all aspects of the business.