The Social Fund for Development, (SFD), has signed an agreement with the US Small Business Administration, (SBA), intended to support small and medium-sized enterprises, (SMEs).
SBA is an American organization that specializes in helping set up small enterprises. "In the US, small businesses provide up to 20 million jobs per year, as well account for almost half of the Gross National Product, (GNP)," says SBA Administrator Aida Alvarez, who was in Cairo recently.
"I believe that with more attention and care, Egypt's SMEs could register the same success," Alvarez said.
She also met with Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak to discuss the possibilities of prioritizing women's business projects, and inaugurated an SBA bureau in Cairo, the first to be established outside the US.
Funded by USAID, it will implement a $3.5 million project providing technical, managerial and marketing assistance to SMEs.
"This SBA-Egypt initiative will focus on three activities, under the umbrella of the US-Egypt partnership for economic growth and development," Alvarez told Cairo Times.
"Egyptian small business experts and managers will be trained in SBA-like programs and services, and we will create an Aid to Trade program to increase Egyptian-US small business trade opportunities as well as assist in the planning of a conference for Egyptian businesses on the challenges of the new millennium."
The bureau will also organize training programs for businesswomen, and provide technical assistance to them.
"In the US, 23 percent of federal project contracts are directed to Smells, so as to encourage them to compete," said Alvarez, who stressed the importance of government support for Smells, either with direct funding or help in procuring other sources of finance.
Meanwhile, the SFD has transformed its Small Enterprise Development Program into a quasi-commercial organization, the Small Enterprise Development Organization, (SEDO), which will offer financial and business services to SMEs.
SEDO, which has a LE1.5 billion budget, is expected to promote the creation of approximately 200,000 sustainable job opportunities annually, starting this year, by providing credit and access to business services to both new and existing small enterprises. The SFD has also set up an insurance association to cover credit risks. "This association is expected to compensate up to 70 percent of the loan's value," according to SFD director Hussein El-Gamal.
During her visit to Cairo, Alvarez also met with Egyptian businesswomen and businesswomen's associations. "In the US, we place a special emphasis on women's projects. Between 1987 and 1997 the number of women-owned firms increased by more than 89 percent nationwide, outpacing overall business growth by two to one. US women business owners employ 27.5 million people and generate more than $3.6 trillion in sales and revenues," Alvarez said.
The SFD has also signed an agreement with the Industrial Development Bank under which LE100 million ($US 250 million) will be used for funding small projects in Egypt. Loans of up to LE1, 000 ($US 250) will be made available to small enterprises, of which 35 percent will be earmarked for women in the lowest income brackets. –(Albawaba-MEBG)
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