Strengthening the Economy by Supporting Women Entrepreneurs
From 2009 to 2015, the Lebanon Investment in Microfinance (LIM) Program, implemented under the VEGA LWA by IESC and FSVC, worked with microfinance institutions (MFIs) and microenterprises to increase access to finance and business development services and ultimately increase enterprises’ incomes and create new jobs. The project used grants to enable MFIs to offer loans that targeted specific borrower groups, particularly women and youth in rural areas. Loan payments were recycled to fund new loans, thus leveraging and increasing the impact of the original. The program combined the grants with targeted technical assistance to MFIs, promoting microfinance best practices, industry cohesion and networking and new product development.
“These projects are the perfect kinds of things where the United States can connect with local Lebanese communities so they can fulfill their ambitions and meet their economic needs.”
– David Hale, Former U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon
During the six-year program, $9.5 million in grants were recycled to facilitate 14,000 loans with a total value of $32.5 million. These loans helped to create 3,000 new jobs and sustained 20,000 more. Among these, 6,000 loans, or 42.9%, went to women-owned businesses, totaling $11 million. Women assumed 1,900 (63%) of the new jobs and held 9,000 (45%) of the sustained jobs.
Expert Volunteer Assistance
The training and capacity building component of LIM was designed to build the capacity of MFIs by providing inclusive and cross-cutting training programs on topics such as risk management, proposal writing and fundraising and social media outreach. All of these trainings had high participation by women entrepreneurs, averaging a third of all trainees.
Mentoring focused on industry best practices, coaching of MFI loan officers, new product development, and the improvement and development of services for borrowers and potential borrowers in the three targeted sectors. VEGA Member IESC drew on its robust database of talented expert volunteers, in addition to volunteers from VEGA Member Financial Services Volunteer Corps (FSVC) and other experienced Lebanese and international consultants, to implement its training and mentoring plan.
To maximize the impact of the technical assistance component, LIM prioritized relationship-building among the partner MFIs to improve their collaboration and facilitate sharing of best practices among themselves.
- Volunteer Jan Buresh provided advice to organizations on agribusiness equipment, start-up, seasonal loans, sales timing, branding and marketing, farmer success factors and value chains. Ms. Buresh has 24 years of experience in banking and agribusiness, spending the last decade balancing her time as an independent consultant and a volunteer, working on 32 projects in 19 countries, including VEGA LWA and F2F programs.
- Volunteer Harold Handley, former Vice President of McCormick Spices, trained 85 people on topics such as dairy product lending risk factors, cooperatives, milk and livestock value chains, components of an agribusiness plan and seasonal price charts.
- Volunteer Dexter Koehl, former Vice President of Industry Relations for the US Travel Association, designed and delivered training to equip loan officers with the technical knowledge needed to better service borrowers from the tourist value chain.
Click here to read stories from local partners in the “Strengthening Lebanon’s Economy by Supporting Women Entrepreneurs” case study.