The Black Business Leadership Network of Namibia (BBLNN) has cautioned banks not to send black entrepreneurs away when applying for the SME Recovery Loan Scheme.

This came after the organization received various complaints that its members were having difficulties accessing funding since the scheme's revival.

BBLNN says some banks have even added terms and conditions to exclude black businesses from doing business with them.

The network has now cautioned banks not to misuse opportunities meant for SMEs by assessing applications based on non-performing loans, saying this has nothing to do with the scheme in question.

The organization further challenged banks to start disclosing those who qualify for government loans, urging the Bank of Namibia to review and amend its overall criteria for those to benefit from bank loans to be more inclusive.

"We need a task force that will work closely with BON and the Treasury to monitor and track how these loans are disbursed to determine whether black businesses indeed participate. As things are right now, we will have to set up an urgent meeting with BON and Treasury to table our concerns," said Irene Simeon-Kurtz, the network's president.

Entrepreneur Amen Nghidengwa, who owns the local 'Eagle Pizza franchise and employs about 50 people, expressed disappointment with the banks' treatment of those enquiring about the SME Recovery Loan Scheme.

Nghidengwa says despite meeting the criteria and required score, he was rejected before the bank could even look into his application.

This, he says, is discouraging to businesses trying to recover from recent challenging economic circumstances and debt.

"With their own scoring scheme, our accounts were actually already qualifying for loans, but we are unable to access these loans due to funny stories. So I don't think the approach in which commercial banks help you is incorrect because they want you to tell them first before they clarify the benefits for you. Because at the launch it was very clear that it is about your breaking capital, about how you can grow your business and make it better, getting your leases in order with all these funds, and then you continue moving forward."

Nghidengwa lost three of his stores due to the impact of COVID-19 and says he approached relevant institutions, including the central bank, to no avail.

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Celma Ndhikwa