Promoting Best Practices in SME Finance

Factsheet — Catalyzing Systemic Change to Create Jobs Through Small Business Growth Powered by Access to Finance

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FIRST+ applies an ecosystem development approach to increase job opportunities for Ghanaian youth and women by delivering what small businesses say they need most in order to thrive – access to finance. Learn more facts about the program.


Customer Story — Victoria Agambire: A Poultry Farmer‘s First Loan Hatches Dozens of Future Ventures

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Victoria Agambire, CEO and founder of Agamvic Enterprise, is a poultry farmer in Ghana’s Western Region. As economic headwinds caused her costs to skyrocket, Victoria found herself struggling to stay in business. Last December, a timely loan from Ahantaman Rural Bank enabled Victoria to endure and even significantly expand her business, securing an optimistic future for her family and her 15 employees.


Customer Story — Linda Quarshie: Using Loans to Grow a Business While Securing a Future for the Next Generation

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Linda Quarshie, owner of a rice processing factory at Sefwi Dwinase, is part of the network of food suppliers in the Sefwi-Wiawso district of the Western North region of Ghana that is helping the government to keep children in school and boost domestic food production in the process. Linda’s business is growing. Beyond selling to the school feeding program, she receives orders from other regions when shortages hit.


Factsheet — Scaling MSME Finance for Social Impact

Currently working with 24 Ghanaian financial institutions, CapPlus employs change management principles while bringing best-in-class expertise and systems to profitably increase lending to underserved small businesses, the largest creators of jobs in Ghana.


Customer Story — Leticia Attobrah: Using Microcredit to Build a Flourishing Food Business in Bogoso

Leticia Attobrah operates a restaurant, which serves mineworkers, keeping them healthy and working at their full capacity. It is her second food business, a sign of how Leticia’s business has been growing rapidly.


Customer Story — Harriet Ofori: A Bakery’s Jobs Rise Along with Bread as Access to Finance Expands

Harriet Ofori runs two bakeries specializing in bread, cakes, and cookies in Aburi, a town on the Akuapem Hills in Ghana’s Eastern region. Loans from Akuapem Rural Bank are taking Harriet’s business to the next level, helping her to expand while creating dignified jobs for many young people.


Customer Story — Gloria Andoh: How a First-Time Business Loan Helped a Grocery Retail Store Entrepreneur Save the Jobs of Her Young Employees

To build resilience against the current economic shocks in Ghana, Gloria Andoh needed a loan. She turned to Ahantaman Rural Bank—a financial institution that has received capacity building in micro and small business finance as part of the FIRST+ program.


Customer Story — Gladys Fawks: Loan Helps Cold Storage Entrepreneur Weather COVID’s Financial Shock

Out of the simple idea of helping women in the fish business reduce their losses, Gladys Fawkes and her partner now run two cold stores in Kojokrom that sell assorted frozen fish and meat products to retailers and consumers in their locality and its environs, by dint of business loans that have given their business the wings to fly.


Customer Story — Esther Amponteng: How One Woman’s Venture Has Become a Family Business

Seven years ago, Esther Amponteng decided to convert a storehouse for her bookshop business into a cold store. Today that decision has paid off. The business is expanding, thanks to loans from Fiaseman Rural Bank, a financial institution that has received capacity building in micro- and small-business finance as part of FIRST+


Customer Story — Cynthia Omane Akaadom, Owner of Akaadom Chop Bar: A Timely Loan Spurs Small Business Growth, New Jobs, and Future Dreams

Cynthia Omane Akaadom owns and runs Akaadom Chop Bar, a small restaurant that sells a variety of Ghanaian cuisines in Tutu, Aburi, in the green mountainous Eastern Region of Ghana. With a recent loan from Akuapem Rural Bank, Cynthia is growing her business and hiring more young people.


Customer Story — Christiana Eghan, CEO of For Christ Food Joint: Reliable Finance Nourishes an Eatery with Impact

Christiana Eghan is a restaurant owner devoted to providing a great dining experience for her customers and ensuring the welfare of her employees. She launched “For Christ Food Joint” in Takoradi from a tabletop, and now she has a thriving business with 21 employees, thanks to finance from Ahantaman Rural Bank.


Case Study — Fiaseman Rural Bank PLC: Transforming the Banking Experience for Women

Fiaseman Rural Bank PLC is proof that a bank can both benefit its community through socially responsible finance and be profitable. In fact, it is Ghana’s most profitable rural bank and one of the largest, operating 14 branches serving the predominantly mining communities of the Western and Central Regions. The Bank strives to reduce poverty in the communities where it operates and emphasizes lending to women.


Case Study — Sefwiman Rural Bank LTD: Transforming Systems and Practices to Expedite Successful Small Business Lending

Sefwiman Rural Bank Ltd describes itself as a relatively young but fast-growing bank with a mission to accelerate economic development and reduce poverty in the communities where it operates in the Ashanti and Western regions of Ghana. Through FIRST+, CapitalPlus Exchange (CapPlus) partnered with the Bank to develop new systems and deliver extensive skills building in proven practices, equipping the team to move beyond microfinance group lending to financing small businesses.


Case Study — Akuapem Rural Bank: An Energized Team Embraces New Systems and Skills to Finance More Women Entrepreneurs

Formal training combined with on-the-job coaching generated an army of re-energized and empowered front-line employees who understand how much finance, what type of finance, and when finance was needed to support their small business clients in ways that maximize their growth, prosperity, and job creation.


Case Study — Ahantaman Rural Bank: A Mindset Shift to Small Business Finance

Ahantaman Rural Bank is a model for other banks on how to accelerate MSME lending through strong leadership, reinforced by accountability to the Board of Directors for the new direction.


Customer Story — Lydia Awatey: Loans for Woman’s Businesses Create Jobs, Increase Education for Youth

Lydia Awatey began her Sosei Agro-Chemicals business with the dream of achieving financial stability for her family. Her shop in Koforidua has been selling agro-chemicals and other agricultural inputs to farmers in neighboring villages, and Lydia has become a role model for other women seeking economic empowerment.


Customer Story — Juliana Awuku: Pineapple Farmer Grows a Secure Future for Her Young Employees

Farmer Juliana Awuku has 21 plots of agricultural land—about the size of five football fields—and 15 hired farmhands, more than half of them women. While farming on a large scale is typically a male-dominated profession, Juliana has earned widespread recognition and great respect in her community as a successful businesswoman and a caring employer.


Customer Story — Farida Moro: Loans Empower Woman to Expand Young Workforce and Serve Community

Farida Moro is a tireless entrepreneur who embraces her own power of self-determination. A mother of six, Farida lives and plies her trade in Tabiri in the Ashanti region of Ghana and owns a thriving cocoa, coffee, and cereal processing business.


CapitalPlus Exchange Announces 2022 Sales Champion Challenge Winners

In recognition of their exceptional demonstration of new mindsets and practices to increase lending to small businesses, CapitalPlus Exchange (CapPlus) announced the winners of the 2022 Sales Champion Challenge, a competition among banks participating in the Financial Institution Resilience and STrengthening (FIRST+) program.

The FIRST+ program is an industry-wide collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation, Bank of Ghana, and the Ghana Microfinance Institution Network (GHAMFIN) led by CapPlus. The program aims to strengthen financial institutions to enable them to increase lending to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and create work opportunities for 60,000 Ghanaians, predominantly young women and men.

The Sales Champion Challenge is a key component of FIRST+’s intensive sales and marketing change initiative designed to increase financial institution lending to MSMEs, empowering businesses to grow and create meaningful jobs especially for youth and women. The Challenge is just one of many interventions to catalyze systemic changes that generate jobs by accelerating small business growth.


CapPlus’ ESG Policy

The purpose of this policy is to define CapitalPlus Exchange Corporation’s (CapPlus) approach to integrating the consideration of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks and value creation opportunities into investments made by CapPlus Impact LLC and technical assistance provided by CapitalPlus Exchange Corporation (together hereinafter ‘CapPlus’).


Published article: Into the future: keys to TA success by Peter Hinton and Lynn Pikholz

On pages 30-31 of the attached issue of Proparco’s Private Sector & Development magazine, Lynn Pikholz (CapPlus CEO) and Peter Hinton (CapPlus Senior Banker) summarize the key attributes to successful technical assistance, based on interviews with 20 experts in the field and their own experiences.


CapPlus and Mastercard Foundation Joint Press Release: FIRST+ in Ghana



CapPlus, Mastercard Foundation, and a consortium of partners strengthen financial institutions in Ghana to enable them to lend to MSMEs to create work opportunities for Ghanaians, especially young women and men.

Accra, Ghana8 December 2021 – Today, CapitalPlus Exchange (CapPlus) and the Mastercard Foundation have announced the launch of an industrywide collaboration with the Bank of Ghana and the Ghana Microfinance Institution Network (GHAMFIN). The initiative aims to strengthen financial institutions to enable them to increase lending to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and create work opportunities for 60,000 young Ghanaian women and men.

Dubbed Financial Institution Resilience and Strengthening (FIRST+), the program will build the capacity of players within the financial sector, including savings and loans companies, rural and small business-focused banks, microfinance, and related institutions by addressing underlying challenges that inhibit their lending to MSMEs. The program forms part of the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works strategy that aims to enable three million young people in Ghana to access dignified and fulfilling work opportunities.

In line with the Bank of Ghana’s efforts to strengthen the financial sector, financial institutions participating in the FIRST+ program will receive technical assistance to:

  • expand their lending to small businesses;
  • increase their attractiveness to investors, including linkages to potential sources of capital; and
  • advance their digitization to improve outreach, risk management, and efficiency.

Participating financial institution staff will also benefit from expanded training and skills building provided by GHAMFIN, including Ghana’s Central Bank accredited training for directors and managers of non-bank financial institutions, to enable them to respond better to the needs of MSMEs while boosting their corporate governance structures.

“The power of combining patient capital with technical assistance has always been our preferred approach, and we are delighted to combine forces with the Mastercard Foundation, GHAMFIN, and Oikocredit to contribute to a more resilient financial sector that provides greater opportunities for Ghana’s youth and women,” said Lynn Pikholz, CapPlus’ CEO.

“We are excited to bring Oikocredit’s full suite of capital facilities to financial sector partners in the FIRST+ program. This partnership enables us to support Ghanaian youth and women while building assets and strengthening women-led businesses. With this program, we are advancing our social impact mission to support Ghana’s agricultural sector, strengthening financial institutions’ operations to provide better digital services and tailored financial products, and increasing access to capital,” said Hans Perk, Oikocredit’s Regional Africa Director.

The FIRST+ program will expand GHAMFIN’s industry building services to approximately 100 member organizations through training and one-on-one coaching for CEOs and senior managers of partner financial institutions. Interested financial sector players can participate in the program by contacting Lynn Pikholz,(

“Accelerating the growth of youth and women-led MSMEs through access to finance and capacity building will stimulate the sector and unlock work opportunities for young Ghanaian women and men especially in the agricultural value chain, fostering economic recovery and prosperity for all,” said Rosy Fynn, Ghana Country Head at the Mastercard Foundation.




About CapitalPlus Exchange

CapPlus supports sustainable solutions for economic opportunity, job creation, asset building for social enterprises and women-owned businesses and poverty alleviation. CapPlus equips financial institutions in emerging economies to deliver finance profitably for social impact. Established in 2004 in tandem with the ShoreCap equity fund, CapPlus also partners with impact investment funds to provide technical assistance alongside their capital investments in financial institutions. CapPlus programs have helped provide over $12.8 billion in 12.9 million loans to MSMEs. For more information, visit:



Ghana Microfinance Institutions Network (GHAMFIN) is a network of nonbank financial institution associations, microfinance associations and member financial institutions engaged in the provision of financial and non-financial services. Members include the Association of Rural Banks (ARB) / ARB Apex Bank, Ghana Association of Savings and Loans Companies (GHASALC), Ghana Association of Microfinance Companies (GAMC), Ghana Cooperative Credit Union Association (CUA), Micro Credit Association, Ghana (MCAG), Ghana Association of Financial NGOs (GHASSFIN) and Ghana Cooperative Susu Collectors Association (GCSCA). For more information visit:


About Oikocredit

Social impact investor and worldwide cooperative Oikocredit has 45 years of experience funding organisations active in financial inclusion, agriculture, and renewable energy. Oikocredit’s loans, equity investments and capacity building aim to enable people on low incomes in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to improve their living standards sustainably. Oikocredit finances 529 partners, with total outstanding capital of € 835 million (as of 30 June 2021). For more information visit:


About the Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to enable young people in Africa and in Indigenous communities in Canada to access dignified and fulfilling work. It is one of the largest, private foundations in the world with a mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. The Foundation was created by Mastercard in 2006 as an independent organization with its own Board of Directors and management.

For more information on the Foundation, please visit:

About Young Africa Works

Young Africa Works is the Mastercard Foundation’s strategy to enable 30 million young people, particularly young women, across Africa to access dignified and fulfilling work. Africa will be home to the world’s largest workforce with 375 million young people entering the job market by 2030. With the right skills, these young people will contribute to Africa’s global competitiveness and improve their lives and those of their communities. The Mastercard Foundation will implement Young Africa Works in 10 African countries in collaboration with governments, private sector, entrepreneurs, educators, and young people. The first phase of countries identified by the Mastercard Foundation are Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Nigeria.



Financing Low-Cost Schools: the Market Opportunity in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

CapPlus’ research into the market potential for financing low-fee private schools as an impactful SME sector continues, this time in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. We thank UBS Optimus for funding this original field research and are pleased to share our new report: Banking on Education in Abidjan.

Abidjan’s private schools educate 54% of the city’s school children, including 70% of secondary school students – significantly higher than we’ve seen in other cities due to the government’s decision to partner with private schools to educate secondary students. As in other cities, the market is growing: 7% per year for the past 20 years.

We estimate 2,400 private schools operate in Abidjan, representing a $200 million market potential for financial institutions to extend credit and $153 million in cash transactions that could be captured.


Financing Low-Cost Schools: the Market Opportunity in Accra, Ghana

More than half of Accra’s children attend private schools, including children in lower-income households. To learn more about these schools and their demand for finance, CapitalPlus Exchange conducted market research in partnership with the IDP Foundation, Inc. Researchers interviewed a random sample of 242 school proprietors in seven low-income districts, providing the basis for projecting characteristics and market potential for the entire private school sector in Accra.


Banking on Education: The Demand for Finance from Low-Cost Private Schools

Low cost private schools represent a growing SME segment that is vastly underbanked. These schools educate millions of low-income children, and offer an opportunity to improve the quality of education in Africa. CapPlus researchers interviewed 998 school proprietors in five African cities and concluded that financial institutions can support schools in growing, improving their financial management and the children’s learning outcomes – all as a profit-generating line of business.


School’s In: The Banker’s View On Delivering Profitable Services To Private Schools

To explore the market opportunity for financing private schools from a banker’s perspective, CapPlus interviewed managers at financial institutions in nine countries to learn their view on delivering profitable services that help schools build infrastructure, run operations, and improve education quality. The bottom line: schools are a larger opportunity than first-movers have captured. This paper explores the reasons why, and provides recommendations for pursuing this market segment.


Financing Low-Cost Schools: the Market Opportunity in Kampala, Uganda

More than 80% of Kampala’s children are educated in low-cost private schools. This article summarizes CapPlus’ findings after interviewing 223 school proprietors as well as local education officials.


Financing Low-Cost Schools: the Market Opportunity in Nairobi, Kenya


Financing Low-Cost Schools: the Market Opportunity in Lusaka, Zambia


Financing Low-Cost Schools: the Market Opportunity in Abuja, Nigeria


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Research Publications

"Bottleneck for Growth: the Human Capital Issue"

Urmi Sengupta (CapitalPlus Exchange).


"Evaluating Poverty Outreach of Small Business Lending: a Study of BRAC Bank, Bangladesh"

Clifton Kellogg, Lynn Pikholz (CEO, CapitalPlus Exchange), Geetha Nagarajan (IRIS Center, University of Maryland), and Sameera Fazili (Yale Law School).


"No Footsteps to Follow: The talent gap in the development finance sector in India"

Peg Ross (Grameen Foundation), Lyndon Rego (Center for Creative Leadership), Anna Muoio and Chris Hosmer (Continuum), and Urmi Sengupta (CapitalPlus Exchange)

CapPlus on YouTube