Blog: How a business in Sierra Leone came through the Ebola outbreak

News from CDC
22 July 2016

Jiad Swaid, Benco Trading

Benco Trading, in Sierra Leone, imports and distributes construction materials and foods. It received a loan as a result of a 2014 agreement between CDC and Standard Chartered Sierra Leone. The agreement aimed to share the risk on up to $50 million of new loans to support businesses struggling to access finance due to the Ebola outbreak.

Jiad Swaid, Benco Trading's CEO, writes for us about how the company came through the outbreak. 

During the Ebola crisis, several countries banned ships from calling at Sierra Leone. This was a problem for Benco as we lost our revenue from importing cement from Senegal. We received $3 million, which helped protect our staff – without this facility we would have had to cut half of our jobs.

With this cash flow, we were able to shift business strategy to focus on goods and services that were needed at the time – particularly by all the people in Sierra Leone from NGOs and other foreign organisations. Then, by February 2015, we were able to start receiving goods from Senegal again. 

Since the Ebola crisis, business has started to pick up again – we have doubled our capacity and are importing more than ever before. Before the crisis, we had around 250 employees.

Now we have created a further 50 jobs – and we’re still hiring. Institutions such as CDC can play an even bigger role in Sierra Leone, as banking restrictions mean medium term capital is not available at reasonable interest rates. Improved access to this type of funding would allow more entrepreneurs to grow businesses and create jobs.

This article was originally published in our Annual Review 2015: Growing in ambition and impact - you can read it in full here

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CDC is the UK government-owned development finance institution. CDC’s mission is to support the building of businesses throughout Africa and South Asia, to create jobs and making a lasting difference to people’s lives in some of the world’s poorest places.

We provide investment capital in all its forms, including equity, debt, mezzanine and guarantees, and this capital is typically used to fund growth. This capital is provided directly and through fund managers that are aligned with our aims.

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