ACRE has set out to support small and growing businesses in developing countries that have a clear social and economic impact on markets in which they operate. In this way we support the facilitation of a robust supply chain. We have a couple of particular focus areas:
A business-enabling environment is fundamental
Nurturing a business-enabling environment is crucial for enhancing the social impact enterprises can have. Community development is closely interlinked with the development of SMEs, market systems, policy-making processes, legislation, tax and fiscal policy and public investment in infrastructure. Supporting individual SMEs is important, but creating an enabling policy environment helps many poor and marginalised people who are not necessarily within the remit of the core business.
Many SMEs in the ACRE pipeline play a pivotal role in opening up new opportunities in markets and influencing policies and practices. For example, an ACRE-supported enterprise in Zimbabwe was instrumental in lobbying the EU to allow the import of baobab into Europe, opening up a huge market. Similarly, an enterprise in Bangladesh played a key role in influencing the government to promote e-commerce in the country.
Access to market challenges women-led businesses face
It is estimated that there are 8-10 million formal SMEs owned by women in developing countries. This represents roughly a third of all formal SMEs (with up to 250 employees). Research shows that women-led SMEs face greater, and sometimes different, barriers than those led by men. Women often have less access than men to assets, credit, services, markets and information on new technologies, consumer preferences and export trade requirements. Women also face particular barriers to engage in income generation activities as unpaid family care roles mean greater constraints in terms of time and logistics. Further research is required to understand and address such constraints. ACRE aims to generate evidence that will help partners and the wider investment community to address challenges faced by women-led SMEs.
To find out more about our access to market and supply chain work please contact us.