The Small Enterprise Foundation (SEF) is a not-for-profit, pro-poor microfinance institution which began operations in 1992. The aim of SEF is to work towards the elimination of poverty and unemployment. This is accomplished through two programs, the Microcredit Programme (MCP) and the Tšhomišano Credit Programme (TCP). MCP focuses on existing, but generally marginal micro-enterprises and provides them with micro-loans. On the other hand, TCP strictly targets women who live below half the poverty line.
SEF employs a group-based lending methodology patterned after the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh. Potential members form themselves into groups of five, which are rigorously tested before they are officially recognized. Upon recognition groups are eligible to apply for loans, which they collectively guarantee.
While SEF does not provide savings services, it requires members of both programs to accumulate regular savings through a Post Office Savings Account. Loans are disbursed and groups deposit their savings into their accounts. SEF has no direct control of or access to the group savings. Through the savings plan, the borrowers build up a fund which they can fall back on when faced with mishaps or tragedies.
SEF is based in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. The Province is the poorest in the country, where only 1/3 of people are formally employed. For the remaining 2/3 of the population, self-employment is the only hope of generating an income. With lack of availability to affordable credit, small businesses struggle to survive or falter.
SEF was established in response to this unmet need.