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ITC, UN Capital Development Fund Partner on Small Business Financing

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CEM REPORT | The International Trade Centre (ITC) and the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote sustainable finance solutions for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

The heads of the two organizations signed the MoU today in Geneva, Switzerland, on the sidelines of the Building Bridges Summit, which aims to advance sustainable finance in Switzerland and across the globe.

The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) offers “last mile” finance models that unlock public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to reduce poverty and support local economic development.


The International Trade Centre is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries to become more competitive in global markets – thus contributing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

ITC and UNCDF will work together to unlock finance for MSMEs to help advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals. They will focus on supporting businesses in frontier markets, emerging economies and least developed countries.

Priority areas include women’s economic empowerment through access to innovative financing, investment and markets; support of youth entrepreneurship, employment and vocational skills through investments and technical assistance; and boosting MSMEs’ ability to compete in local, regional and global markets. This last area will focus on innovation, digitalization and private sector development.

‘Lack of access to finance is one of the top challenges that small businesses face – and that’s especially true in developing countries,’ said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, ITC Executive Director. ‘Through this partnership with UNCDF, we’re targeting that challenge, so women and young entrepreneurs across the world have a chance to grow their businesses and enter new markets.’

‘UNCDF and ITC have already been partners in the areas of youth economic empowerment, confronting climate change and impact investment. This MoU is a natural extension of our previous work and we are proud to work so closely with our sister UN entity,’ said Preeti Sinha, Executive Secretary of UNCDF. ‘MSMEs are not only recipients of sustainable finance. They can also be engines of sustainable finance as well; for youth, for women, and for communities in frontier markets, emerging economies and LDCs. ITC and UNCDF are each distinctly capable of supporting Member Countries on their pathways to the SDGs. Together, we will make sure that impact capital for development will be on full display.’

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The partnership looks to leverage the economic and financial capabilities of two United Nations entities. ITC supports sustainable and inclusive development by boosting the competitiveness of MSMEs, placing trade-led growth at the centre of public policy and building supportive business ecosystems in developing countries. For more information on innovative ITC partnerships, such as this one, see the ITC Partnerships4Purpose webpage.

UNCDF will leverage its singular role in the UN Development System as a hybrid development agency/development finance institution, offering a suite of finance capabilities, including grants, technical assistance, loans, guarantees, bonds and blended finance instruments.

Other areas of collaboration include supporting the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks, which are instruments to plan and implement UN development activities at country level. ITC and UNCDF will also engage in joint resource mobilization efforts, especially at country level, to boost development support and investments in MSMEs.

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