Small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) financial inclusion is at the core of the economic diversification, growth, and job creation challenges in the Middle East and Central Asia (MENAP and CCA) regions. Financial inclusion is taking higher priority in many countries and in the international policy agenda, such as through the Financial Inclusion Action Plan endorsed at the 2010 G20 Summit in Seoul. In the MENAP and CCA regions, many countries face formidable challenges to stronger and more inclusive growth and a more vibrant private sector.
The average share of SMEs in total bank lending in MENAP and CCA countries is only about 7 percent, the lowest in the world. The IMF and other international institutions, therefore, have a key role in supporting the prioritization of reforms and the design of policy strategies in a way that increases SME financial inclusion that is country-specific and build on international experience.
This paper highlights the macroeconomic relevance of SME financial inclusion in the MENAP and CCA regions and offers policy considerations to scale up SME financial access. Its focus is primarily on the macroeconomic and policy aspects of SME financial inclusion, and not all issues relevant to SME financing are covered. It is organized as follows: the first section presents the SME financial inclusion gap in the MENAP and CCA regions and potential macro-financial benefits from reducing this gap.
The next section builds on empirical analyses to identify key drivers of SME access to financing, especially in MENAP and CCA countries. Reviews of the role of alternative channels of SME financing, such as capital markets and fintech, follow, building on international experience. The final section takes stock of existing efforts to support SME financial inclusion and suggests policy approaches that are both holistic and tailored the specific needs of MENAP and CCA countries.