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Essential Financial Tools for Small and Medium Scale Businesses
Businesses drive the economic and overall growth of a country, and strong and thriving businesses generate income, employment opportunities and support families. In fact, these groups constitute the core of a nation’s socio-economic development.

In a developing country, this valuable contribution is made predominantly by small and medium scale businesses. Experts agree there are two essential financial tools for small and medium scale businesses in a developing economy:

  1. Micro-loans
  2. Insurance

Together these two financial tools can bolster the steady growth of a business and insulate it against unforeseen circumstances such as bad weather and unfavorable market conditions.

Micro-Loans

Micro-loans are a fundamental tool for small and medium scale businesses. Micro-loans are small amounts of money borrowed from a bank or a financial institution which can be returned in minuscule monthly installments over a few years. Depending upon the borrower’s income, the installments can be as low as a few cents a month.

Often, there are no additional charges involved. “I’ve worked in microfinance long enough to know that late fees create a cycle of debt,” says Matt Flannery, founder and CEO of Branch, a mobile lending platform that remotely transfers money ranging from $2 to $500 to bank accounts of poor small-scale entrepreneurs in Kenya. Like Branch, many other startups in the developed world are contributing to the success of mushrooming small and medium scale enterprises in developing nations around the world.

The significance of these financial tools for small and medium scale businesses has been reinforced through various initiatives of the World Bank as well. In Turkey, a World Bank project helped expand the export capacity of small and medium scale businesses through micro-loans worth $1.7 billion in Export Finance Intermediation Loans. The project report showed that participating companies introduced new products, increased exports and benefitted sales and employment significantly.

Insurance

The second among the financial tools for small and medium scale businesses is insurance. Insurance creates a safety net for a businesses, and in case a business isn’t as successful as initially perceived, insurance can be used to pay off debt. Insurance thus provides an opportunity for the entrepreneur to avoid the vicious cycle of poverty, and is also proven to encourage risk-taking and improve business competitiveness.

A recent report published by the World Economic Forum stated that one in three people in Latin America lives in an area threatened by frequent floods and climate change. In countries like Mexico, Puerto Rico, Peru and Guatemala, insurance is the most effective financial tool for small and medium scale businesses.

Success vs. Failure

Public-private partnerships in many Caribbean countries provide risk cover against earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Recently the World Bank issued sustainable development bonds to Chile, Columbia, Mexico and Peru to provide comprehensive insurance covers worth $1.36 billion against earthquakes.

These two financial tools can mean the difference between success and failure for many businesses. Increasing access to micro-loans and insurance in developing countries can help businesses grow and expand, resulting in many more people being lifted out of poverty.

– Himja Sethi
Photo: Flickr