March 2, 2018 By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
A Call to Business (ACTB) savings and loans and Cerra Automotive- a leading auto centre and car rental company in Sierra Leone, have yesterday entered into a joint venture to provide and finance the sale of 1,000 Piaggio Ape Three-wheelers (Kekeh) in the country at the Cerra automotive headquarters on Wilkinson Road in Freetown.
The venture, which would be done through the ‘U Na Boss’ Kekeh Loan scheme would enable young people to own Tricycles and be their own boss within 6 to 12 months.
Speaking during the ceremony, Chief Executive Officer of ACTB savings and loans, David Kamara said access to finance has been a key limiting factor to the growth of small businesses in the country, adding that as a leading provider of finance to more than 17,000 Small and Medium scale Businesses (SMEs) in the country, ACTB savings and loans was pleased to add another product to its ever growing portfolio of products that caters for the direct needs of SMEs in the country.
The U Na Boss Kekeh Loan Scheme would greatly support the national financial inclusion strategy and create opportunities for small and medium scale entrepreneurs to birth their dreams and breathe life to their existing ventures through a very vital ease to access to finance.
He said the scheme would potentially create at least 1,000 jobs in 2018.
The ACTB boss said the scheme will be done over the twelve months period with fifty thousand Leones each week.
“We are pleased to working with Cerra Automotive and Piaggio in executing this initiative. Piaggio has a reputation of producing stronger and efficient vehicles and we believe they will add tremendous value to whoever gets to have them for their “Kekeh’’ business,” said David Kamara, adding that the Piaggio three wheelers could be accessed through an initial down payment of Le500,000 and weekly payment of Le500,000 over a 12-month period.
Also speaking was the Chief Executive Officer, Cerra Automotive SL Ltd, Charbel Khoury, who said the “Piaggio Ape Keke”, is an Italian made machine which comes with a much larger interior space for both passengers and baggage, a bigger axel load, which makes it more stable and safer on the road and above all has more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly engine.
“With large amount of Keke’ currently in stock , adequate spare parts and specialised in- house mechanics, we are confident of meeting the anticipated demand and providing efficient after sales services to our customers ,” he said.
He said Piaggio Engineers will be deployed all across the country to train mechanics on repairing the three-wheelers, guaranteeing a much longer lifespan.
Chief Director and professional head, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Charles Mereweather Thompson, whilst speaking on behalf of the trade minister, said in as much as they put emphasis on the need to train future entrepreneurs through entrepreneurship components within the formal sectors, at tertiary levels, yet it behooves on them to re-orientate their thought processes and strategies to cater for the informal sector, to which a large proportion of youth and young adult belong.
“This initiative is seen to directly identify with SME development, it also directly addresses issues of youth employment and empowerment ,facilitates job creation and provides the much needed support of access to finance that has been the cancer stunting SME growth and development in most developing economies,” he said.
Thompson said the Ministry of Trade recognises that a broad –based, self –sustaining industrial structure could only be built at the grassroots level, and that they were aware that there was a vast reservoir of technical and entrepreneurial skills including carpenters ceramic wo4jers amongst others in the country.
President Keke Association, Bornoh Samba Kamara, said as an association, they were happy for the loan scheme which he said would help the association.
He said as an association, they were there to settle disputes and assist people to access loan, stating that they sometimes faced some challenges with regards payment of loan by their members.