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SMEs

Yes they can: SMEs filling the infrastructure gap in fragile countries

Yolanda Tayler's picture


Photo: Trocaire | Flickr Creative Commons

In war-torn post-1991 Somalia, running water was a scarce commodity, to the misfortune of millions of people. Members of local communities rose to the occasion, “pooling” consortia of companies to fill the gap in water provisions. Eight public-private partnerships (PPPs) were formed through these consortia, benefiting 70,000 people in the Puntland and Somaliland regions of the country.  

As demonstrated in the Somalia case, infrastructure needs are substantial in fragility, conflict and violence-affected (FCV) contexts—especially for recovery and reconstruction in war-torn areas. Yet often there is insufficient public sector funding to address such needs, compounded by lack of interest on the part of large private sector firms, who may not even be on the scene. In such FCV contexts, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), making up a substantial share of the private sector, may be critical to filling the infrastructure services gap.

How to foster a more inclusive environment for SMEs in PPPs?

Jenny Chao's picture


Photo: Lufa Farms | Flickr Creative Commons

Have you ever walked around a megastore, lost in the aisles of choices, only to go home without the one item you set out for? Conversely, have you ever wandered into a much smaller “mom and pop” shop and found everything you need?

Many reasons compel us to support small and medium businesses: tailored knowledge, personalized service, and the satisfaction of contributing directly to the local economy. 

The benefits of supporting such small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, carry over into Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). But often, these enterprises find themselves “crowded out” by the bigger players in infrastructure. SMEs in developing countries may find it particularly costly and time consuming to comply with complex pre-qualification criteria or bidding documents, leaving them unable to compete with market leaders. This is unfortunate, because SMEs participating in PPPs can build local capacity and expertise, decrease costs, facilitate logistics, encourage increased competition, and create broader opportunities for economic development.

These vital and homegrown engines of growth are the focus of a new section on the PPP in Infrastructure Resource Center (PPPIRC) that links the policies, laws, and contractual clauses that can foster a more inclusive approach to SMEs in PPPs.