Promoting accessible finance to those who need it the most
In many emerging markets and developing countries, access to capital has remained one of the most significant constraints on business growth for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
In addition, the lack of financial products or services targeting MSMEs prevents these businesses from delivering essential services and creating jobs, which are critical to securing livelihoods and uplifting families out of extreme poverty.
How can we address these impediments that are against development?
Empowering financial institutions
In Vietnam, for example, even though small and medium-scale businesses account for 97 percent of firms in operation, about 57 percent do not have access to credit facilities. However, to address this challenge and promote supply chain finance, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), with support from Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), launched a financing package, combined with advisory services, to boost lending to small and medium enterprises. The project, executed by Orient Commercial Joint Stock Bank (OCB), expands lending services to underserved women-led businesses.
Similarly, IFC committed $2 billion in new financing to support African MSMEs, stimulate economic recovery from the pandemic, create jobs, and promote business activities. The support is one of IFC’s most significant commitments to specific initiatives within the continent. Moreover, the timeliness of the intervention aligns with ongoing regional and country-specific plans to improve economic activities slowed by threatening economic recession, inflation, and reduced foreign direct investment flows that have pushed many African countries into poverty.
Women-led businesses are not left behind.
Recognizing women-led businesses’ role in driving economic recovery, IFC also focuses its investments on promoting gender equity. For example, the Banking on Women initiative has invested more than $3 billion in financial institutions to support sustainable financial services for women. Since its launch, 165 investments and advisory services projects have been executed in 63 countries. About 47 percent of these projects are in IDA and Fragile and Conflict-Affected (FCS) countries.
Another example of how IFC promotes women-led businesses is the recent partnership with Seedstars World Competition and Gender Equity Track in Africa, which targets women entrepreneurs from 23 Sub-Saharan African countries. The program provides funding, training, and mentoring opportunities to female-owned or led start-ups by creating a platform for selected start-ups to participate in a pitch competition and gain exposure through boot camps, investment readiness programs, and other mentorship and global networking. The accelerator program reaches high-growth tech entrepreneurs in emerging markets through the support of local networks and attracts over 10,000 participants annually.
No doubt, we can accelerate the drive to achieve green, resilient, and inclusive development by making finance more accessible to those who need it the most. So far, in general, IFC’s investment in clients has supported nearly 2.6 million jobs, reached 13.7 million customers in the power, water, and gas distributions, 45 million patients, more than 7.9 million students, 3.6 million farmers, according to the 2021 IFC Annual Report. Moreover, when MSMEs have adequate access to funds, they can focus on creating innovative solutions to pressing development challenges. That is why IFC works with financial institutions like OCB to unlock sources of capital and provide expertise to support businesses in Vietnam, many of which are still struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. And support initiatives like Seedstars that create opportunities for women entrepreneurs to access funding support for business growth.
Unlocking finance for MSMEs is creating a pathway for the next generation. That is why IFC will continue to strengthen these businesses by meeting their needs of the moment and ensuring long-term survival.