Beirut, Lebanon, June 10, 2013—IFC,
a member of the World Bank Group, and BLC Bank today launched SME Toolkit
in Lebanon, an online solutions platform designed to help small and medium
enterprises (SMEs) grow their business and improve performance.
SME Toolkit offers information and expert
advice on how to start, run and grow a business. Available for free at
SME Toolkit is designed to help managers and entrepreneurs implement sound
management practices to improve their business. The platform covers a wide
range of management areas such as accounting, finance, human resources,
legal issues, and marketing.
“Our vision is to support SMEs in Lebanon,
by providing the tools to improve their business, build their capacity
and nurture their growth. We provide comprehensive business solutions that
include non-financial services such as advisory services and training.
As of today, we are proud to be the local distributor of the SME Toolkit,”
said Maurice Sehnaoui, Chairman and General Manager of BLC Bank.
SMEs are crucial to growth in developing
economies, as they contribute a high proportion of jobs and, in some countries,
more than 30 percent of the gross domestic product. Micro, small and medium
enterprises in the Middle East and North Africa comprise up to 90 percent
of total businesses and are estimated to number between 19 and 23 million,
generating up to 40 percent of all employment in the region. The region
has the highest unemployment rates in the world and 75 million jobs need
to be created by 2020 just to maintain current levels.
“Lack of access to information is one
of the key challenges that face smaller businesses in the region, which
hinders their growth and profitability. Bridging the information gap will
help strengthen SMEs capacity and increase their competitiveness,” said
Elvira Van Daele, IFC Program Manager.
First launched in 2002, the SME Toolkit
is now available in more than 40 countries and 18 different languages.
Its various websites worldwide receive 5 million unique visitors annually.
According to a recent survey, 86 percent of repeat visitors to the online
SME Toolkit have made or plan to make changes to their business. Of those
who made changes, 96 percent reported improved business performance.
IFC has worked with BLC Bank since 2008,
providing banking products for SMEs and collaborating on a series of services
tailored to small businesses run by women.
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group
is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the
private sector. We help developing countries achieve sustainable growth
by financing investment, mobilizing capital in international financial
markets, and providing advisory services to businesses and governments.
In FY12, our investments reached an all-time high of more than $20 billion,
leveraging the power of the private sector to create jobs, spark innovation,
and tackle the world’s most pressing development challenges. For more
information, visit www.ifc.org.
About BLC Bank
BLC Bank is focused on its vision of
becoming a Bank of reference and is actively involved in financing productive
economic sectors which have a lasting effect on national growth and sustainable
development. To this effect, the Bank received local and international
awards for its commitment to developing SMEs, fostering women’s economic
empowerment and contributing in promoting CSR initiatives. With this
in the background, BLC Bank earned the exclusive partnership for the Lebanese
version of IFC’s innovative SME Toolkit website,
SME Toolkit (www.smetoolkit.org),
an innovation of IFC, developed in partnership with IBM, leverages the
latest information and communication technologies to help entrepreneurs
and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in emerging markets learn and implement
sustainable business management practices and increase their productivity,
capacity, and access to finance and new markets. Through a network of global
partners and local distribution partners, the Toolkit provides business
men and women with online and mobile phone access to key business management
information, interactive tools, and educational resources free of charge.