Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2011

New SME Financial Access Initiatives: Private Foundations' Path to Donor Partnerships

Ben Leo

June 2011

Center for Global Development


In recent years, a number of private foundations and organizations have launched ambitious initiatives to support promising entrepreneurs in developing countries, on both a for-profit and not-for-profit basis. Many of these programs have focused exclusively on building business capacity. While these tailored programs play an important role in supporting small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) development, their overall effectiveness remains hamstrung in part by continuing constraints on entrepreneurs’ access to expansion and operating capital. Simultaneously, the U.S. government, other bilateral donors, and international financial institutions (IFIs) have launched a series of initiatives that provide both financial and technical assistance to SMEs in developing countries. Surprisingly, collaboration or formalized partnerships between private foundations and donor agencies has been somewhat limited—particularly on a strategic or globalized basis. This paper is targeted for these private foundations, especially those focused on women entrepreneurship. First, it provides a brief literature review of the rationale for and against SME initiatives. Second, it presents an overview of existing targeted USG and IFI programs. Lastly, it offers several new, incremental options for private foundations to establish focused partnerships with donor agencies in support of their ongoing organizational goals.