Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups have a fundamental role in society and in the economy. They provide jobs, sources of income and goods and services for important segments of the population. They can also have a significant impact on the productivity and competitiveness of an economy: innovative and high performance firms bring new products and services to the markets; they introduce more efficient ways of doing things; and they create competitive pressure on incumbents. Some SMEs are also integrated in national and global value chains, for instance by providing goods and services to other firms including large and multinational companies.
SME policy is high in the social and economic development agenda of MENA governments and is one of the central areas of co-operation between the MENA region and the OECD.
The main activities of the MENA-OECD Competitiveness Programme in this policy area are:
- International policy dialogue and peer learning through the MENA-OECD Working Group on SME and entrepreneurship policy [url to be created], which engages MENA and OECD policymakers, experts and representatives of the private sector and international organisations.
- Support to individual MENA countries in the identification and implementation of reforms through analytical work and technical assistance.
- Capacity building through training courses for government officials involved in private sector development and SME policies.
The main thematic areas of work of the MENA-OECD Competitiveness Programme are:
- Improving business environments.
- SME creation and growth, including by promoting women’s and youth entrepreneurship.
- More effective and efficient policy making, including through better institutional coordination, more and better SME statistics and monitoring and evaluation.
- Access to finance for SMEs and entrepreneurs.
Analytical work and technical support
- SME Policy Index: The Mediterranean Middle East and North Africa 2014
This multidimensional benchmarking of SME policies was undertaken by the OECD in co-operation with the European Commission and the European Training Foundation, in close consultation with MENA governments, the private sector, experts and donors. The study covered key areas for enterprise development reflected in the Small Business Act for Europe (business development services, access to finance, internationalisation, bankruptcy, public procurement, etc.) and represented an update of a similar assessment undertaken in 2008.
The briefing note of the study is available in English and French
This and other regional series can be found at the SME Policy Index webpage
- Capacity building on policies for SMEs, access to finance and competitiveness
Since 2012 the OECD and the Middle East Centre for Economics and Finance (CEF) of the International Monetary Fund organise annual trainings on improving SME policies and access to finance in addition to policies for competitiveness in the MENA region.
The courses take place in Kuwait City and are conducted by experienced OECD staff and international experts in the areas of private sector development, access to finance, industrial policies and others. Each course benefits some 30 to 35 mid to senior-level officials from the Middle East and North Africa. The courses are a forum to discuss specific instruments, methodologies and good practices.
The OECD and the CEF also hold yearly courses on public-private partnerships and on strengthening integrity in the public and private sector.
Activities and Resources
About the MENA-OECD Working Group on SME Policy and Entrepreneurship
SME Policy Index in the Mediterranean Middle East and North Africa 2014 (See the summary note in English and French)
New Entrepreneurs and High Performance Enterprises in the Middle East and North Africa
Report on the implementation of the Euro-Mediterranean Charter for Entreprise:
English | French
Women in Business 2014: Accelerating entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa Region | Arabic
SME work with the Deauville Partnership and Arab Countries in Transition
• Meeting on GCC-OECD co-operation on SME policy and entrepreneurship
8 March 2016, Dubai, UAE
• Working Group on SME and entrepreneurship policy: Materialising the social and economic potential of SMEs and entrepreneurs,
9 March 2016, Dubai, UAE
• Training course on Improving competitiveness in MENA countries, with the Middle East Centre for Economics and Finance (CEF) of the International Monetary Fund.
9-12 May 2016, Kuwait City
• Training course on Improving policies and access to finance for SMEs in the MENA region, with the Middle East Centre for Economics and Finance (CEF) of the International Monetary Fund
3-6 October 2016, Kuwait City
For further information, please contact: MENA.Competitiveness@oecd.org