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HARARE-- A regional development finance institution, the Trade and Development Bank (TDB) based in Bujumbura, Burundi , formerly known as the PTA Bank, has announced a 3.0 million US dollars facility to support small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in Zimbabwe grow their businesses.

The fund will be administered by a Zimbabwean micro-finance institution, Untu Capital, has which signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the TDB, an offshoot of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

TDB President Admassu Tadesse said Zimbabwe's path to economic rejuvenation will only be successful with the inclusion of small businesses in development plans.

Zimbabwe became the first of the institution's member countries to benefit from the SME programme, which will soon be replicated in six other countries.

We all know Zimbabwe in its great days. We know Zimbabwe was a shining beacon in the whole Southern Africa region and we are all looking forward to seeing Zimbabwe come back but Zimbabwe cannot just come back without its ordinary everyday people, the SMEs. The small business people have to be an important part of this renaissance, Tadesse said.

While the TDB has since its establishment in 1985 provided multi-millions in support of other sectors of the Zimbabwean economy, it was yet to establish a programme specifically meant for SMES.

"We have always understood that the true character and soul of a development institution is also how it reaches out to the smaller player and smaller development actors in a country, he said.

We have been soul searching on how we can do more to reach out to the smaller players and we finally came up with this idea to create a very small programme, a programme that has a potential to grow.

He said the partnership with Untu, which has experience in dealing with the local market, was due to the regional bank's belief in partnerships and that there are a number of players in the development market place who know how to do the things better than we do at the execution level.

Andrew Bamugye, THE TDB senior investment manager responsible for SMEs, said the 3.0 million usd facility would run for two years as a pilot programme and its continuation thereafter would depend on its success.

We are building a financial model that is blended with business support to reach out to impactful SMEs in six countries as a pilot but we will be demand driven, he said.

The initiative is aimed at supporting small businesses that can have maximum impact in the shortest possible time.