Continuing our research on how to help micro and small enterprises export their products, Sandler Trade recently conducted interviews with directors of organisations in the field. These included Mr. Hamed M. Hamed of the Social Development Fund in Egypt, Ms. Ella Beavers with FINCA in Kosovo, and Mr. Al Waleed Mahmoud of WMS International in Sudan.
Mr. Hamed gave us a great deal of useful information about the Social Fund for Development’s work in Egypt as well as the plans for the Egyptian association of microfinance institutions (MFIs) to be established soon. The association will be comprised of the 24 largest MFIs in Egypt. One of their important functions will be to establish a credit bureau. It will allow sharing of clients’ credit history with MFIs and commercial banks. The Social Fund for Development facilitates exports and may be well-suited to do so for micro-loan borrowers because it has a department of non-financial services. Items that have the greatest potential for export include handicrafts, carpets, and furniture.
FINCA has been operating in Kosovo for more than 10 years. Most of their clients work in the agricultural sector, though producers of handicrafts are affiliated with FINCA as well. The domestic market however, is limited, especially for handicrafts. The population of Kosovo is only 1.4 million and though members of the diaspora return to buy goods, they do so only once a year (usually during the summer). Building a sustainable business, therefore, is difficult and depends on expanded markets outside the country. This is why FINCA’s clients in Kosovo, as well as other businesses, need support and guidance on how to sell their products abroad.
Mr. Mahmoud indicated that Sudan’s microfinance industry started in 2007. Initiatives were started with the help of other countries and from Sudan’s central bank. The MFIs’ capital comes largely from the central bank, which limits funding to MFIs because it views the lending risks to small borrowers as too great. Policies appear not to recognize that small borrowers will create goods and jobs that will benefit the economy.
Sandler Trade would like to thank all the interviewees for their insight and time. Their contributions are invaluable to continuing our work.