Reinforcing Med Microfinance Network System for Start-ups

Rest@rts project: Adressing the challenges of funding in Lebanon

In Lebanon, SMEs, representing entrepreneurial ventures, make up about 90% of the total Lebanese enterprises’ population. Financing a venture and its needed capital has long been one of the main challenges entrepreneurs face in starting their ventures. The biggest hurdles, as shown by entrepreneurs, had to do with finding proper funding and competing with large established firms. Not only is financing necessary for the establishment of firms, but it is also vital for their growth and success. Otherwise, firms may turn to lending, which is paired with high demands of collateral from investors. A starting capital is crucial for someone to become an entrepreneur launching his/her project or venture. Acquiring this needed capital is one of the main obstacles and challenges entrepreneurs face. That is because banks require hard-to-achieve conditions to provide loans that are not feasible for everyone. Thus, from the preceding, it may be concluded that one of the first issues to be discussed when an entrepreneur wants to execute a new idea and start a new venture, is the source of capital to be used. Access to loans from financial institutions isn’t always easy and convincing for investors to put cash at risk for a new start-up can be a tiring, costly, and long process. In Lebanon, although the financial sector is well-figured, funding seems to be one of the issues that the country faces. The Lebanese economy is debt-driven and there is an obvious mismatch in the supply and demand of capital for SMEs. Adding to that is the financial crisis, stressing the aforementioned difficulty for entrepreneurs obtaining funds in traditional ways.

As a result, there is an emerging need for alternative funding/financing mechanisms.  Possible synergies include:

  •  Access to and interface with an efficient funding/financing platform that offers flexibility and more attractive terms of financing for entrepreneurs
  •  Pairing local Microfinance Institutions in impoverished communities with not-for-profit funding organizations—provides a potential solution to the capital constraints faced by MFIs.
  • Access to retail and institutional investors at a larger scale, for example, refinancing of loan books of microfinance institutions to increase liquidity.
  • Empower MFIs that are vital members of this ecosystem—they make and manage the initial loans, and share risks.
  • MFI affiliation may serve as a salient signal to investors about the entrepreneur (reducing asymmetrical risk).

Rest@rts project will capitalize on the results of MEDSt@rts and other initiatives of the ENI CBC MED programme to meet the need and put in place a support program including technical support for entrepreneurs to gain what they miss on the knowledge curve, capacity building training for MFIs, online marketplace matching borrowers and lenders. 

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