SMEP began operations as a small project of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) in 1975.The Project started as a relief arm of NCCK providing the poor in the slum areas in Nairobi with food and later small business grants. It was later recognized that the project could not continue the feeding programme indefinitely and therefore ways and means had to be sought out to make people participate in meeting their daily needs and avoid dependency.
It is in this spirit that a credit scheme was born. In 1990, the scheme adopted the group lending methodology (adapted from the Grameen Bank model) through support from USAID. Since then, the programme has continued to grow and has recorded significant success.
Later on NCCK made a decision to allow the programme run autonomously in order to address the problems of poverty and unemployment more effectively. SMEP was registered as a company limited by guarantee in April 1999. In 2009 SMEP became the first MFI in Kenya to partner with Safaricom M-PESA. This was to enable the organization to offer faster, safe and convenient services. In 2010 SMEP DTM LTD was licensed by Central Bank of Kenya as a nation-wide Deposit Taking Micro finance. In 2012 SMEP DTM has released the greatest innovation in Africa by being the first MFI to provide a VISA enabled debit card to its clients.
To facilitate and support the achievement of the Vision and mission, SMEP has the following values that guide the code of conduct and building of the organizational culture. In the conduct of its affairs, the Board of Directors, Employees and other stakeholders of SMEP embrace the following values;
- Integrity and Honesty
- Human dignity and worth
- Commitment to high quality, efficiency and excellent customer service
- Unity of purpose and Teamwork
- Commitment to continuous improvement and Innovation
- Justice, fairness and equal opportunity and participation
- Zero tolerance to corruption
- Social responsibility in the spirit of stewardship, community empowerment and development
- Professionalism in leadership and governance
- Transparency and accountability in the management of its affairs
- Gender balance for equitable distribution of management responsibilities
SMEP has two main product categories of credit and advances facilities:
- Group Loans
- Retail Loans
These are loans,
- whose average size for initial loans to individuals is shillings 25,000 and the maximum size is shillings 3 million.
- not secured by conventional collateral such as land title deed, vehicle log-books etc.
- that largely go towards financing very small businesses or micro enterprises operated by low income people and located in areas where poor and low income people reside.
Currently, micro finance loans are ‘Group-Based’, that is provided to individuals through groups that are either formed by SMEP or are per-existing. The main purpose of the groups is to facilitate the management and administration of very small loans. The groups allow the MFI to attain economies of scale, as well provide for alternative collateral systems.