Promoting Best Practices in SME Finance

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.


Access to finance at the right amount and time helps small businesses thrive and create jobs for women and youth in Ghana: case studies

FIRST+ (Financial Institution Resilience and STrengthening) is a CapPlus-led program that delivers best-in-class expertise to help Ghanaian financial institutions increase their lending to micro and small businesses (MSMEs), with the aim of accelerating businesses’ growth to create thousands of quality jobs, particularly for youth and women. The initiative is led by CapitalPlus Exchange (CapPlus) in partnership with the Bank of Ghana, the Ghana Microfinance Institutions Network (GHAMFIN), and the Mastercard Foundation.

These stories told proudly by five women entrepreneurs demonstrate the impact of FIRST+ on rural small businesses and their employees, and describe how loans received through FIRST+ partner banks enabled them to better weather financial shocks, expand their businesses, and improve the overall quality of life for their families and their predominantly young employees.


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


Other Documents

Corporate Capabilities

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Credit Scoring Workshop Preview

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Loan Monitoring Webinar Supplement: Sample Report Templates

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Supply Chain Finance Inside Out: Reducing Credit Risk

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Strengthening women-owned SMEs in Turkey: Lessons for other localities

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Foreign Exchange Risk for Small Business Banks: Case Study on XacBank

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Championing Middle Managers

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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