Challenges of finance accessibility by SMEs in the democratic republic of Congo: is gender a constraint?

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Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) play a significant role in income generation, job creation, poverty reduction and reducing income inequality of all countries, regardless of the level of development. Nevertheless, in developing countries, they are exposed to several challenges affecting their business operations and growth. Among others, access to external financing has been cited to be the most pressing challenge for SMEs in developing economies. The lack of accessibility has been indicated to result from the deficiencies observed from both financial institutions and SMEs. Further, it has been discovered that from the SMEs’ perspective, gender, among other entrepreneurial characteristics, has a role in accessing finance. This paper surveys a sample of 109 SMEs in the Democratic Republic of Congo not only to find what are the challenges faced in seeking finance, but also to investigate the extent to which gender impacts access to finance. The evidence gathered shows that finance is really constraining, there are more rejections than approvals of finance due to the lack of collateral, high interest rates and the inability of SMEs to develop attractive and bankable projects. With regards to gender, the findings were somehow assuring in the sense that when both women and men apply for external finance, they stand the same chances of accessing finance. Recommendations were established to all the actors. SMEs must put more effort into regulating their businesses in order to reduce their risks and build strong relationships with lenders. Financial institutions should not only reconsider the interest rates as they were perceived to be extremely high, but also train SMEs to be “more bankable”. Lastly, the Government should implement policies to support firms and render the business environment more appealing for both SMEs and financial institutions.

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    L25, G21
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