April 07, 2015

Rwanda’s national economy relies heavily on coffee, which accounts for 30% of the country’s exports. Coffee washing businesses that dry the farmers' coffee beans before export are an important part of the supply chain behind those exports. Each year, these stations require large loans over a short period of time to purchase beans. However, the volatility of coffee prices makes the sector risky for lenders, which means that coffee washing firms find it difficult to secure the loans they need to grow. Alternative approaches to small and medium enterprise (SME) financing could reduce the risk...

April 04, 2015

IPA's Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Program is pleased to announce its' ninth round of requests for proposals, with the deadline of June 15th, 2015. The program seeks to build a body of evidence on the effectiveness of programs and policies that promote SME growth.    SME Program Research Focus Areas The three key research areas of interest for the SME Program are: Access to Finance Human Capital and Skills Access to Markets and Information In addition, there are three cross-cutting themes that are relevant to each of our research areas: economic growth, poverty alleviation & job...
Media Coverage
December 04, 2014

Writing on the Center for Economic Policy Research's dissemination portal, David Atkin, Amit Khandelwal, and Adam Osman discuss their work with IPA studying how to grow Egyptian carpet exporters' business. They report the that improving access to external markets grew the businesses by 15-20 percent, depending on the measure used. You can read more about the study on IPA's site here.

November 12, 2014

Now Accepting Proposals: Competitive Research Fund on Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprise Growth

IPA's Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Initiative is excited to announce that it is now accepting applications to the 8th round of the Competitive Research Fund on Entrepreneurship and SME growth. We are looking for proposals for research projects that use rigorous methods to test innovative programs and policies that promote SME growth. In the past, the Fund has awarded grants for projects ranging from an evaluation of an export promotion program in Egypt to a study...

Julian Jamison, Dean Karlan, Jonathan Zinman, Gregory Fischer, Antoinette Schoar, Alejandro Drexler
October 20, 2014

  In Uganda, nearly half of surveyed adults were unable to correctly answer a question about interest rates according to a recent Finscope study. When asked “If you were offered a loan with 5% monthly interest rate and a loan with 20% annual interest rate, which loan would offer better value?” 49% ended up choosing the more expensive loan option or were unsure of the right answer.   The Bank of Uganda in collaboration with the German Development Agency (GIZ) is hoping to address these types of gaps in financial literacy with targeted programming and outreach. Its strategy for financial...
Media Coverage
October 06, 2014

Ariela Alpert, Sarah Craig, and Lucia Sanchez, of IPA's Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Initiative, have an article in The Broker, explaining a conundrum in the field - while training seems to help small businesses in the developing world grow, the research shows classroom management training consistently disappointing in effectiveness. They review what's known to date in the article here, and more on the initiative's work to find out how to grow small and medium-sized enterprises in the developing work is on their page, here.

October 06, 2014


Editor's note: This piece originally appeared in The Broker

Business training programs are a popular tool used by policy-makers to promote SME growth. However, recent evidence suggests that these programs rarely lead to firm growth or job creation. What do we know about how to effectively support SME development?

Each year, millions of dollars are spent by donors, non-profit organizations, and governments on programs that aim to support the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). However, successful transitions from small to medium-sized or large firms...

Rohini Pande, Selim Gulesci, Gregory Fischer, Oriana Bandiera, Antoinette Schoar, David Atkin
September 15, 2014

  Enter almost any market in Uganda, Nepal, or Peru and you are likely to find streets filled with shops all selling the same items, whether it be rows of tire shops, stores selling the same wooden furniture, or shoe shop after shoe shop. It seems that if some of these firms merged to achieve larger scale, they could make more money. Are these firms behaving irrationally, or is the market set up in a way that allows many small businesses to collaborate rather than compete? Research looking at this and other key questions about the growth of small and medium enterprises (SME) was discussed in...
Gharad Bryan, Pamela Jakiela, Dean Karlan, Daniel Keniston, Antoinette Schoar
July 07, 2014

In developing countries small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are thought to be an important source of innovation and employment because of their flexibility in responding to new market opportunities and their potential for growth. However, entrepreneurs face a number of barriers to expanding their businesses and employing more workers, including constrained access to credit - in 2010 available credit for SMEs in developing counties fell about one trillion dollars short of demand. Why can’t financial institutions in developing countries meet the demand for credit from SMEs?

One reason...

May 22, 2014

Sparking a Conversation on Small and Medium Enterprises

The SME Initiative's network of researchers and decision-makers works together to set a policy-relevant research agenda, conduct cutting-edge research, and share findings and best practices to improve the way SME policy is implemented around the world. Twice a year, the Initiative hosts a Working Group meeting to bring network members together to discuss research ideas and results, as well as new opportunities for collaboration. This blog post discusses some of the research presented at the SME Initiative's 4th Working Group...

April 16, 2014


Last month, the Doha Evidence Symposium brought policymakers and practitioners together with academics and researchers to discuss "what works” in increasing the employment and productivity of youth in the Middle East and North Africa regions. Lucia Sanchez, SME Initiative Director at IPA, is shown above leading a discussion on self-employment and entrepreneurship programs. More information about the symposium can be found here.

April 16, 2014


The Small & Medium Enterprise (SME) Initiative is pleased to announce a special call for proposals to its Competitive Research Fund on Entrepreneurship and SME Growth. This request for proposals has a focus on High-Growth Entrepreneurship in Latin America and is funded by the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank (MIF/IDB). The objective of this call is to fund studies which will contribute to existing knowledge about fast-growing small and medium enterprises and examine policies that identify and support them. In view of this objective, proposals...

October 24, 2013

The Small & Medium Enterprise (SME) Initiative is pleased to announce that it is now accepting a SIXTH ROUND of applications for its Competitive Research Fund on Entrepreneurship and SME Growth. The goal of this fund is to support innovative research that is in line with the initiative's objective to build a systemic body of evidence on the contributions of SME growth to poverty alleviation and economic development. We hope that this competition will have a catalyzing effect to stimulate high quality research that can produce relevant evidence to innovate, implement and scale programs...

Media Coverage
October 04, 2013

Morten Seja writes about affiliate Antoinette Schoar's recent talk at the World Bank, discussing the importance of differentiating subsistence from transformational entrepreneurs in thinking about about policy design for developing countries. Targeting the right kinds of policies to the right kind of entrepreneurs is a crucial topic for IPA's Small and Medium Enterprise Initiative. You can read the full summary of the talk here.

Media Coverage
July 04, 2013

An impediment to accessing finance in a developing economy, in general, and in the Philippines, in particular, is the absence of robust data and credit bureaus that will allow the development of a sophisticated model for determining credit scores based on past borrowing history. There is a need to devise a creative but sound credit scoring model that will tailor inputs to include easily verified information and data relevant to the specific context. The SME Initiative, along with the Development Bank of the Philippines, is evaluating a new a credit scoring system that attempts to improve...