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SMEs

Job preservation or job creation: can’t we have it both ways?

Simon Bell's picture
Using SME lines of credit and other SME support operations for long-term development or a quick term countercyclical fix?
 
I recently attended an interesting presentation about a truly impressive credit guarantee agency, the Korean Credit Guarantee Agency (KODIT), established 40 years ago with $44 billion in outstanding guarantees and 220,000 SMEs guaranteed annually. A truly impressive institution which has opened up bank lending to more and more SMEs, which otherwise would have gone unfunded and unserved.  As one of the larger Partial Credit Guarantee (PCG) schemes in the world, the Koreans have clearly achieved remarkable results at an impressive scale.
 
The one thing that struck me most, however, was the slide reproduced below. KODIT explicitly uses a guarantee instrument on SME loans as a tool of countercyclical policy. So, when the economy enters a down turn, guarantees are more liberally applied to ensure that SMEs don’t go out of business and adversely impact the generally negative economic scenario. “Job Preservation” becomes more important than “Job Creation.” With 99% of registered firms in Korea being SMEs, and with 87% of Korean employment coming from SMEs,supporting this sector in a down turn is clearly very important.

 

Korea is not unique.  During the early days of the Great Recession in 2008, the Small Business Administration of the United States of America increased SME guarantees in the face of an economic down turn.  Since the summer of 2015, the Chinese government has begun to offer subsidized loans to SMEs to counteract the effects of the Chinese slow down. Countries such as Turkey, Ecuador, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Myanmar and Egypt are increasingly seeking World Bank support for SME lines of credit, SME guarantee programs, and other forms of SME support. Supporting SMEs is clearly a well-recognized and frequently applied tool of economic policy.
 
Yet our own World Bank guidelines stipulate that SME-support interventions are meant to help achieve longer-term developmental goals – broadening and deepening financial markets so that financial systems can ultimately take on these types of lending without the need for outside intervention. In fact, a 2014 IEG Report on “The Big Business of Small Enterprise” criticized the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, and MIGA for undertaking SME I, followed by SME II, followed by SME III, followed by SME IV, with no visible increase in the capacity of the underlying financial sector to sustain such lending on its own account, very little lengthening of the tenors of SME lending, and seemingly very little increase in the commercial banking sector’s comfort levels in dealing with a clientele which all too frequently is perceived by private lenders as being unduly risky.
 
It would actually seem, however, that SME Lines of Credit and other forms of SME support, are undertaken for several reasons but within two broad categorizations:
 
Category 1:
  • To help catalyze the market in the development of longer term financing instruments (an output, not an outcome)
  • Support employment generation (which is a prime motivation in the current global environment) or other “SME-related” objectives (such as diversification, innovation, geographic dispersion of economic activities, value chain inclusion, women’s employment, youth employment, etc)
 Category 2:
  • As a tool of countercyclical economic policy.
My strong belief is that many of the SME support operations that the World Bank is being asked to operationalize are related to putting a countercyclical policy in place in the face of an economic down turn.  Most of these governments have not “suddenly found religion” with respect to wishing to promote longer term maturities in their SME lending markets or seeking to promote greater private sector bank risk taking with growing SME portfolios.  They clearly want to have operational interventions in place as soon as possible because they face immediate economic problems.
 
It would appear that SME support mechanisms can be a  legitimate tool of countercyclical economic policy in an economic down turn. However, because speed is generally a prime pre-requisite in such an environment, these types of operations will not necessarily promote the pre-conditions for longer term market development for SME funding, an enhanced appetite for banks to lend to SMEs, or even increased support for “employment-generating” SMEs that may well be the desired target …………. and consequently, the criticism that we are not having a real lasting developmental impact.
 
Maybe the time has come start thinking about SME lending in two distinct ways: 
  • As a tool of countercyclical economic policy (much like fiscal support through a DPL, but directed at the private sector)  and
  • As a more developmental instrument (catalyzing longer term lending markets, developing instruments more attuned to “employment generating” SMEs, supporting a more robust financial infrastructure – including payments system and PCG support schemes, etc).  
Until we come to better grips with these two distinct – and equally important impacts – of SME support operations, we will continue to undervalue the short- to medium-term value of countercyclical SME lending, despite its widespread global use and its potentially hugely important economic impact.
 
 

Are my bananas green because of market distortions or wrong policies?

Michael J. Goldberg's picture



Green bananas. Saturday morning I head to the market to buy bananas, but I find only green ones at the stand. There is no large banana importer to complain to, no government bureaucrat to sympathize with my need for ripe bananas, and certainly no banana grower to chat with. I have to make an economically rational decision (buy them green, buy them later, or don’t buy at all) and move on to the apples, where the cycle repeats. This is a market imperfection that I understand and have to live with (although it drives me bananas).

But what about when we wear another hat, that of the Bank financial sector project designer? We are used to generating investment projects that fit different market situations, regulatory systems, and political realities. Under tight time constraints, we do what an economist might do – assume there is a market imperfection and brainstorm on the most appropriate effective solution. But a true economist would want evidence of the market imperfection from statistics, recent assessments, etc.
  
So what is a financial sector specialist to do?  The first step is to understand which of the many imperfections represents the binding constraint – the one that blocks government and private sector counterparts from taking the first steps to correct a problem. This is where the economists come in.  

SMEs are good business for Kenya’s growing banking sector

Gunhild Berg's picture


Maasai women make, sell and display their bead work in Kajiado, Kenya. 2010. Photo: © Georgina Goodwin/World Bank

Kenya’s financial sector has expanded rapidly over the last decade and lending to businesses—including small and medium size-enterprises has played a big part. As the Kenyan economy is enjoying a period of relatively high growth, the financial sector’s ongoing ability to channel credit affordably and efficiently to SMEs will be needed to underpin inclusive and sustained economic development.
 
To better understand the SME finance landscape in Kenya, a World Bank-FSD Kenya team embarked on a study with the Central Bank of Kenya to explore the supply-side of SME finance. In addition to quantifying the extent of banks’ involvement with SMEs, the study shows the exposure of different types of banks to the SME market, the portfolio of services most used by SMEs, and the quality of assets. Our report also discusses the regulatory framework for SME finance, the drivers and obstacles of banks’ involvement with SMEs, and their specific business models. 

Dancing with angels, racing with gazelles and dreaming of unicorns

Simon Bell's picture


From IFC photo collection. Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

There has been a lot of discussion around the topic of SMEs and job creation.  While SMEs can foster innovation, help diversify an economy, spread economic activity beyond the main urban hubs, give opportunities to women and youth and much more, their role in creating jobs – in the current economic environment – is key.

Interesting work by the Kauffman Foundation (see graph below) shows than virtually all new net job creation in the U.S. economy has been generated by firms that are less than five years-old and which, almost by definition, are more than likely to be small.  Although there is a huge amount of job churn in this class of enterprise (which are new and therefore probably small), the “net” impact is powerful.  A small subset of these firms are “gazelles” – or very fast growing enterprises – which grow from 5 to 500 employees in a five-year period, generating impressive results.

Five steps to closing the $2 trillion credit gap

Peer Stein's picture

Dignity factory workers producing shirts for overseas clients, in Accra, Ghana
Dignity factory workers producing shirts for overseas clients, in Accra, Ghana. Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank.

Everyone needs financial services – the poor, the middle class, and the wealthy. But if you are poor, access to quality finance is harder to come by, and much more expensive. Unfortunately, the same is still true for small businesses around the world.

Compared to large companies, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face severe credit constraints. Two-hundred million businesses globally are unable to get the credit they need, both for working capital and for investments. The estimated global credit gap exceeds $2 trillion. These credit constraints are most acute in low-income countries, where nearly half of small businesses cite lack of access to finance as a major barrier to growth.

This SME finance gap is often described as the “Missing Middle”: microfinance institutions provide capital for microenterprises with fewer than five employees and commercial banks or private equity firms serve large corporations and multinationals. Small and medium-sized companies, usually defined as companies with up to 250 employees, are stuck in the middle. This is an enormous problem, because the vast majority of all firms world-wide are SMEs – up to 95%, according to some definitions.

To meet the jobs challenge, maximize the impact of SMEs

Klaus Tilmes's picture

The urgent challenge of generating jobs and incomes – as the world’s working-age population is poised to soar – will require making the most of all the job-creating energies of the private sector and the strategy-setting skill of the public sector. Today in Ankara, Turkey, the World Bank Group renewed its commitment to strengthen the global economy’s most promising and inclusive source of job creation: small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

At a signing ceremony at the B20 conference of global business leaders – coinciding with the G20 forum of government leaders from the world’s largest economies – the Bank Group joined in a partnership with a new organization promoted by the B20: the World SME Forum (WSF), which is to become the global platform to coordinate practical assistance and policy support for SMEs.

Based in İstanbul, WSF has been founded through a partnership between the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and ICC’s World Chambers Federation.



World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim – in Ankara, Turkey, on September 4, 2015 – signs a Memorandum of Understanding to confirm the Bank Group's partnership with the World SME Forum. Also signing the document, along with President Kim, is Rifat Hisarciklioglu, the Chairman of B20 Turkey and the President of TOBB (the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey).

SMEs are a vital engine of innovation and entrepreneurship, and the success of the SME sector is central to every country’s prospects for job creation and economic growth. Providing support for SMEs is a fundamental priority for the World Bank Group, as we pursue our global goals of eradicating extreme poverty by the year 2030 and boosting shared prosperity.

SMEs are crucial to every economy: They provide as much as two-thirds of all employment, according to a recent survey of 104 countries – and, in the 85 countries that showed positive net job creation, the smallest-size enterprises accounted for more than half of total net new jobs.

Consultation on how to improve SMEs’ access to finance through better public credit guarantee schemes

Pietro Calice's picture

Also available in: Español | Français

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a major role in most economies, particularly in developing countries. However, more than 50 percent of SMEs lack access to finance. Without it, many SMEs languish and stagnate. Credit markets for SMEs often don’t work.
A common form of intervention to improve access to finance for SMEs is a public credit guarantee scheme (CGS).

Credit guarantee schemes provide third-party credit risk mitigation to lenders by absorbing a portion of the losses on the loans made to SMEs in case of default, in return for a fee. CGS are popular partly because they combine a subsidy element with market-based arrangements for credit allocation. This allows less room for distortions in credit markets, unlike more direct forms of intervention, such as state-owned banks.

Credit guarantee schemes are present in more than half of developing countries. Their numbers are growing.

Governments have become interested in CGSs in the aftermath of the global financial crisis and amid the international community’s emphasis on SMEs as an engine for growth and job creation in developing countries. However, to be effective, CGSs need to be designed and implemented in a financially sustainable manner.

With this in mind, the World Bank Group and the FIRST Initiative convened a task force to design, implement and evaluate public credit guarantee schemes for SMEs.

At the FCV Forum, a focus on jump-starting job creation: Boosting SMEs amid woes of Fragility, Conflict and Violence

Christopher Colford's picture



Jump-starting job growth is difficult enough when a country’s investment climate is supportive, when its government has clear goals and competent capabilities, and when its business leaders can make far-sighted plans. When an economy is riven by the chaos of war, or when it is newly emerging from a severe social trauma, channeling capital toward private-sector job creation is even harder.

Amid this year’s FCV Forum at the World Bank Group – focusing on economies gripped by fragility, conflict and violence (FCV) – a seminar combining Financial Sector and Private Sector priorities heard a sobering picture from expert practitioners who have been on the front lines of promoting job growth in economies that are in turmoil. Moderated by John Speakman, the Lead PSD Specialist in the Bank Group’s practice on Trade and Competitiveness – who is the author of a new book on small-scale entrepreneurs in FCV situations – a panel explored the daunting challenges of promoting private-sector growth when countries are in turmoil.

Would-be job creators confront an enormously complex task in FCV situations. Yet the panelists agreed that there is reason for hope – even in the most tumultuous FCV conditions – if financing can be targeted toward promising startup companies, and especially toward potential “gazelle” firms that can energize new sectors of the economy.

“Ultimately, it’s all about money: Poor people are poor because they don’t have money,” said Hugh Scott of KPMG, whothe Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF). “It’s the delivery channel – the financing mechanism – that’s making the difference” in the 23 African countries where the ACF has offered grants and interest-free loans to about 800 private-sector firms, producing a net development impact of about $66 billion.

The difficult business environment and increased risk profile in FCV countries means that traditional lenders (primarily banks) are all the more hesitant to lend, said Scott – making such vehicles as “challenge funds,” which focus on promising small and startup firms, even more important. As co-founder of invest2innovate (and current World Bank Group consultant) Sadaf Lakhani noted, the “ecosystem problem” for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and startups is all the more complex when countries face “a political economy of war.” As she had observed during her work with invest2innovate -- a nonprofit angel investing and accelerator organization -- such frequent FCV afflictions as corruption, patronage, fragmented markets and capital flight make it even more difficult for managers and lenders to identify, evaluate and accelerate startups.     

Bank financing, in fact, is not always a ready source of funds for startup ventures, as noted by Simon Bell, the Global Lead on SME Finance at the Bank Group. Banks weigh the historical profit-and-loss performance of would-be borrowers – yet the entrepreneurs who are behind the “small sub-set of firms,” like the so-called “gazelles,” that are destined to create jobs quickly have little or no financial track record. Startups are thus often viewed warily by risk-averse bankers. Drawing on his long experience in the MENA region, Bell underscored that a priority in FCV states is ensuring that there is “a continuum of financial institutions and services” – like early-stage financing, private equity, venture capital and angel financing – that can provide critically important financing at various stages of a dynamic company’s growth.

To help give a boost to startups and young firms, the International Finance Corporation has created several financing mechanisms that are having a positive impact on job growth. The SME Ventures Program, created in 2008 with a $100 million allocation from IFC, has aimed to reach businesses in the poorest of the poor countries, often in FCV situations, said its Program Manager, Tracy Washington. Having financed about 60 SMEs, and having already supported the creation of about 1,000 direct jobs and many more indirect jobs, the SME Ventures Program has had a positive “demonstration effect,” inspiring new entrants to serve the marketplace once they have witnessed IFC’s strong performance. In addition, IFC's Global SME Finance Facility, described by Senior Investment Officer Florence Boupda, has provided investment capital and advisory services to 27 financial institutions in 18 countries since 2007 – including 17 projects in seven FCV countries.

The challenge for the future, agreed Boupda and Washington, will be to find additional ways to combine Bank Group interventions in ways that continue to choose companies with the greatest potential and that maximize the impact of Bank Group support. Their insights were underscored by Bell, who emphasized that “globally, employment is our issue” – and who asserted that “there are points of light all around” in this “very exciting” area, as various arms of the Bank Group focus on “the employment imperative.”

Finding ways “to apply the most innovative solutions to the most challenging situations,” especially in FCV and other traumatized countries, remains the grand challenge for international financial institutions, concluded Michael Botzung, IFC’s manager for fragile and conflict-affected countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet the determination of the energetic practitioners on the SME financing panel reminded the FCV Forum audience why there is cause for hope – and why, in Speakman’s words, the intensive WBG-wide efforts to promote job creation in the toughest FCV situations is “one of the things that makes us proud to be with the World Bank Group.”
 

#TakeOn Fragility Conflict and Violence

Treasure-Hunting for Women Entrepreneurs

Qursum Qasim's picture



Pick any country in the developing world.

Say, Pakistan.

Where are the women entrepreneurs in Pakistan?

They start and manage digital-content creation firms serving international clients. They are sole proprietors of construction businesses bidding for government projects. They supervise tailors and embroiderers in windowless storage rooms that double as stitching units. They export high-end gems and jewelry around the world.

Women entrepreneurs in Pakistan lead cutting-edge, innovative businesses – but there are far too few of them. The recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report finds that only 1 percent of Pakistani women are engaged in entrepreneurship – the lowest proportion in the world.

Pakistan is not alone in its dismal ratio of growth-oriented (or indeed any kind of) women entrepreneurs. Even in the developed Asian economies of Korea and Japan, only about 2 percent of women are entrepreneurs. Sub-Saharan Africa does much better in this regard, with 27 percent of women, on average, engaged in entrepreneurship -- but they are mostly involved in low-productivity sectors of the economy.

Women entrepreneurs, in Pakistan and globally, have narrow networks of friends and family who provide them with some initial capital to start their small businesses, with little expectation of further financial support. Their export customers are located wherever they have extended family. And they rarely feature in local chambers of commerce activities.

Banks are often reluctant to extend lines of credit to, provide working capital to or lend to women-led enterprises. This makes it difficult for these enterprises to pursue growth. Perhaps this is why the average growth projections for women-led enterprises are seven to nine percentage points below those for their male counterparts.

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