By Arun Hsu, Chief of Party, Jordan Loan Guarantee Facility
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are key to innovation and an engine of economic growth and job creation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Despite the crucial role SMEs play in the region’s economies, they often have great difficulty accessing the financing needed for start-up and growth. The financing gap for SMEs in the MENA region is estimated to be between $110 billion and $140 billion. Women entrepreneurs especially struggle to access the credit they need to grow their businesses.
The Jordan Loan Guarantee Facility (JLGF), established through support from OPIC, USAID and Global Communities, facilitates SME lending by providing partial loan guarantees for SMEs that are creditworthy, but cannot provide the collateral and/or information required by the banks. Recently, the JLGF partnered with Vital Voices Global Partnership to help these women entrepreneurs.
Vital Voices identifies underserved women with high potential who lead SMEs on the cusp of growth. In order to increase their positive impacts on society, Vital Voices invests in women business leaders to strengthen their decision-making power, grow their businesses, and improve the enabling environment for women entrepreneurs.
The JLGF regularly conducts financial management workshops tailored to the unique needs and challenges of local women business owners. The women entrepreneurs JLGF has helped to obtain bank financing for start-up and expansion represent key sectors of the Jordanian economy, including pharmaceuticals, garments, packaging, handcrafts, auto services and food processing.
Vital Voices provides direct growth services through the Vital Voices GROW (VV GROW) Fellowship. This year-long program consists of an intensive participant selection process, online and in-person coursework, and tailored services to support action oriented growth plans.
In October 2013, Vital Voices held the four-day in-person portion of the Fellowship in Amman, Jordan. Convening nearly 30 women business owners representing 11 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, the training covered topics such as leadership, networking, business planning, understanding markets, and executive financial management.
Financial management proved to be more popular than had been expected. Before the training, only one participant said that learning about finance had been a priority, but after the training, the women were all enthusiastic about learning more about how it can benefit their businesses.
The participants also found that they could easily link financial management to other disciplines associated with growing a business, such as marketing and production, to make better business decisions in the future.
The participants were very enthusiastic about the training. According to one of the VV GROW Fellows from Jordan, “The VV GROW Fellowship has helped me to develop a structured plan for the future growth of my business, while also building my skills and network. It has put so much about my business in perspective. I know that with the guidance and support of this program, I will continue to grow – in a planned and purposeful way.”
And Malini Patel, Acting Senior Director, Economic Empowerment and Senior Director, Middle East North Africa at Vital Voices, said “Vital Voices recognizes the potential these women have as not only business leaders, but community leaders as well. We are committed to supporting their business growth aspirations as a means to spur economic growth and make positive impact in their communities. Through partnerships with organizations such as JLGF, we can together create collective impact.”
As the JLGF’s Chief of Party, I couldn’t agree more, and that is why Vital Voices and Global Communities look forward to continuing their valuable partnership and continuing these trainings in the future.