One year program to measure growth of companies receiving assistance.
CAIRO: The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is initiating a program to measure the progress of its Business Edge Advisory Services (Beas) program in Egypt. The program has been providing training to assist the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Egypt and nine other countries over the past two years.
IFC officials made the announcement at the end of a two-day conference held in Cairo last week to discuss improving progress measurement of the organizations advisory services provided worldwide. In FY 2006-07, IFC is spending $200 million on advisory services globally, up from $150 million the previous year.
The organization relies on the contributions of member states and multinational corporations who also act as shareholders of the financial arm of the World Bank Group.
“[Progress measurement] is a process of exposing ourselves to the opinions of our donors and our clients and being really vigorous about that process, Laurence Carter, IFC Small and Medium Enterprise Department director told The Daily Star Egypt.
Locally, IFC has been working with seven training companies and facilitating access to SMEs through cooperation with large corporations such as Unilever, Microsoft and Mobinil. Beas provides courses in areas including marketing, human resources and finance and accounting to assist the growth of SMEs.
Corporations have been especially eager to contribute because they work with hundreds of small businesses and are interested in increasing the strength of their supply chains, said Jesper Kjaer, general manager for IFC’s advisory services in the Middle East and North Africa.
The evaluation, set to take place over the next year, will measure the growth of SMEs receiving and not receiving assistance.
IFC launched a $1 million project in late 2005, working with the Ministry of Investment and the Alexandria Governorate to reduce the bureaucracy required to conduct business in Alexandria as a prototype. The project is now focused on reducing the number of authorities and the costs associated with obtaining building permits for investors and prospective homeowners, says IFC Project Officer Sherif Hamdy.
In December, the Ministry of Economic Development released a study showing 70 percent of more than 1,000 small and medium enterprise owners surveyed said they regularly suffer from government neglect and complicated procedures.
MoI’s General Authority for Free Zones and Investment (GAFI) launched its 1-stop business registration service in 2005, but it has done little to ease investor concerns regarding bureaucracy in other areas. GAFI’s initiative has also done little to integrate the country’s unofficial small and medium business sectors.
Despite local and international criticism, GAFI Chairman Ziad Bahaeddin says much has been accomplished to reduce bureaucracy and increase lending options, with plans for further improvement.
According to the Industrial Development Authority (IDA), a GAFI affiliate, business registration and licensing procedures, including property registration and acquisition of building permits, used to require an average of 277 days and six steps for completion. In the past year, IDA Chairman Amr Asal says the organization lowered the numbers to 135 days and four steps and is now working toward 45 days and three steps.