Kafalah conference to discuss challenges facing SME sector

Saudi Arabia’s development funds announced a set of initiatives to alleviate the repercussions of the Corona pandemic on SMEs. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Small and Medium Enterprises Loan Guarantee Program (Kafalah), in partnership with the SME Finance Forum, will hold the 5th International MENA Guarantee Conference 2021 under the slogan: “The Role of Credit Guarantee Schemes in Rebuilding the SMEs Post-COVID-19.”

The conference will take place on Sept. 6-7, 2021. It will convene leading credit guarantee experts and practitioners from the MENA region and beyond, alongside SME finance specialists and industry professionals to discuss challenges facing this sector.

The conference will discuss how credit guarantee schemes can meet those challenges and contribute to rebuilding SMEs post-COVID-19.

More specifically, individual sessions will tackle alternative data, early-stage financing, and equity guarantees, the digitization of credit guarantee institutions, and the specific challenges of funding for sectors especially affected by the pandemic: including tourism, supply chains, and entertainment.

Director General and Chairman of the Board of Arab Monetary Fund Dr. Abdulrahman Al Hamidy, Chairman of the Board of the Kafalah Program Dr. Fahad Alshathri, Governor of Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monshaat) Eng. Saleh Al-Rasheed, CEO of SME bank and Vice Governor of Funding at Monshaat Mohammed Al-Malki, and General Manager of Kafalah Homam Hashem are among the speakers at the conference.

Hashem said that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are a major source of new job creation in emerging and developing countries. In the MENA region, it is estimated that the SMEs account for 80–90 percent of all businesses.

However, despite their systemic importance, SMEs continue to face major challenges when it comes to access to finance. Lack of credit information and lack of collateral are just two of the many reasons why financial institutions are less exposed to SMEs than to larger and more established firms.

He pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic made the situation much worse for the region’s SMEs. Due to the pandemic’s challenges many businesses are closed and countless jobs have been lost.

He noted that many governments across the region have scaled up credit guarantee schemes to tackle the urgent liquidity problem faced by SMEs and to stimulate economic recovery through rebuilding the SME sector.