Nedbank Namibia has announced the appointment of financial veteran, Mr Sam Ikela, as the new Head of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Meet Sam Ikela

With a significant span of a quarter-century working in the financial sector, Ikela is no stranger to the industry. His career, which took flight in 1998, has been a journey of growth—from roles as a relationship manager in, then as branch manager, and later as the business development manager.

In 2016, Ikela made a significant leap into SME development as the head of SME Finance and Development, and he hasn’t looked back since. He has also served as country manager for an international investment firm, enhancing his global business perspective.

Ikela brings a rich academic background to his new role, holding a master’s degree in Philosophy in Development Finance from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa and a host of other qualifications from reputable institutions. His academic prowess complements his extensive experience, positioning him as a strong advocate for SME growth in Nedbank.

Ikela’s Vision for SMEs in Namibia

Ikela joins Nedbank at a pivotal time. As the Namibian economy starts to rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic, the spotlight is increasingly on the SME sector, widely recognised as a key driver for recovery.

“I’m thrilled to join the Nedbank team, and I’m keen to collaborate with our SME clients to find solutions that suit their unique needs,” says Ikela. He emphasizes that the challenges facing SMEs require a tailored approach rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.

Nedbank’s Stance on SME Development

With the Namibian Government and the Bank of Namibia offering a N$500 million recovery loan scheme for SMEs, Nedbank is eager to play its part in aiding this crucial sector. Ikela believes this collective effort is crucial for the integration of SMEs into the mainstream economy. He draws on World Bank data, pointing out that on a global scale SMEs account for nearly 90% of all businesses and over 50% of employment. In Namibia, these numbers are potentially higher.

He notes, “SMEs aren’t just a sector of our economy – they are a vital component of our national livelihood, providing employment for many Namibians and contributing to our GDP.”

The Road Ahead

As Nedbank intensifies its support for SME funding, Ikela encourages SMEs to explore the SME loan scheme through Nedbank. Despite the recent hikes in the repo rate, the scheme provides loans ranging from N$50,000 to N$10 million, offering a crucial lifeline to businesses seeking to cover operational expenses such as salaries, rent, lease agreements, and contracts with suppliers.

“Nedbank’s approach to lending is always responsible and prudent,” says Ikela. “Especially in this challenging economic climate, we guide our clients through the application process to help them make sound financial decisions.”

He continues, “We’re here to be the supportive partner SMEs need during these challenging times, and the loan scheme is one avenue we use to facilitate that.”

Ikela envisages SMEs as catalysts for economic recovery and potential game-changers in the Namibian economy. He underscores a 2017 International Finance Corporation study which estimated that there were around 71,000 micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Namibia. These businesses collectively employ approximately 160,000 Namibians, amounting to about one-third of the nation’s workforce.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

While the road to economic recovery may be long and challenging, the appointment of Sam Ikela as the new Head of SMEs at Nedbank Namibia is a promising step. His vision for a stronger, more resilient SME sector, coupled with Nedbank’s commitment to these businesses, signals a bright future for SME development in Namibia.

As Nedbank continues to invest in SME growth, Ikela’s experience and passion will undoubtedly drive the sector forward, creating a positive impact on the economy and livelihoods of many Namibians. SMEs in Namibia can expect a focused, innovative, and supportive partnership with Nedbank under Ikela’s stewardship.

Ikela’s concluding call to SMEs is clear, “Get involved with the SME loan scheme through Nedbank. It is meant to support you and simultaneously to promote economic recovery. Let’s work together to create a vibrant, thriving SME sector that contributes significantly to Namibia’s economy.”

In the photo: Nedbank Namibia newly appointed Head of SME, Sam Ikela.