Under the Citi-CCC rural economic empowerment programme, Hatton National Bank (HNB) provided loan facilities to a group of micro-scale businessmen in the Urubokke area of the Matara district to commence new businesses as well as for expansion of existing businesses.
A total of 37 entrepreneurs, who were earlier trained by the Citi-CCC rural economic empowerment programme on identifying commercially viable business and preparation of business plans for commencing new businesses or expansion of existing businesses as well as on ways and means of sourcing finances from the formal financial sector, were awarded loans by the HNB Urubokke branch, which is set up as a ‘Gemi Pubuduwa’ branch to cater to the micro-scale entrepreneurs.
Among them, there were 17 female entrepreneurs, who are engaged in micro-scale food processing, running tea and spice nurseries and grocery shops in their locality. Male entrepreneurs are mainly engaged in tea and cinnamon cultivation and collection of tea leaves and cinnamon quills.
Citibank Sri Lanka Citi Country Officer Ravin Basnayake, Citibank Sri Lanka Head of Corporate Affairs Shanaka Waduge, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) Senior Assistant Secretary General Chandra D. Vithanage and HNB Assistant General Manager SME and Development Finance Jude Fernando took part in the event, representing their respective organisations.
Urubokke is the nearest town for the remote villages on the Southern Sri Lanka namely Beralapanathara, Morawaka, Waralla, Bengamuwa, Gomawila coming under the Pasgoda DS Division of the Matara district. The majority of the villagers are engaged in smallholder tea cultivation and cinnamon cultivation. Further, many of them are engaged in businesses such as micro-scale food processing, running tea and spice nurseries, running grocery shops and collection of tea leaves and cinnamon quill.
As the rural entrepreneurs in these areas needed assistance to improve commercial viability of their businesses, the Citi-CCC rural economic empowerment programme had chosen Beralapanathara and other nearby villages in order to strengthen their livelihoods through providing the necessary business and technical training, business development services and facilitating access to finance through linking them with the formal banking sector so that they can increase their disposable income.
Vithanage in his opening remarks highlighted that providing microfinance is nothing new as there are over 25 commercial banks and many microfinance institutes offering loans. However, this Citi-CCC rural economic empowerment programme offers much more than microfinance by focusing on providing an integrated package of services including providing capacity development, technical know-how, business development services and exposure to best practices business management in order to make their chosen business commercially viable, which will help them to access financial services from formal baking system.
Speaking at the event, Fernando mentioned that HNB has been supporting the rural entrepreneurs through the Gemi Pubuduwa programme for nearly two decades and is privileged to partner with the Citi-CCC rural economic empowerment programme, which was funded by Citibank and implemented by the CCC.
On behalf of HNB, which is a private commercial bank helping the rural up and coming entrepreneurs in all parts of the country, he requested all beneficiaries of this programme to better use the financial facility offered on this day to help grow themselves and the economy.
Basnayake stated that the corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes of Citibank globally are aimed at nurturing rural micro-scale businesses so that they could grow and contribute to the national economy of the respective countries. In line with Citi Bank’s global programmes, it was decided to implement this programme for economic empowerment of rural entrepreneurs, who have no adequate access to finance and technology, in a few remote villages of Sri Lanka.
Citi Bank is happy with the progress achieved so far in collaboration with the CCC and HNB, which have been very reliable project partners. He requested the beneficiaries to make use of the assistance provided through the programme to successfully conduct their business and uplift their living status while positively contributing towards the improvement of the local economy.