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    What is the SME Access to Finance Initiative?

    The SME Access to Finance Initiative is a joint programme launched by the European Investment Bank and the European Union that aims to enhance access to finance for small and medium businesses (SMEs), as well as financial inclusion of underserved segments, such as start-ups or youth- and women-led businesses.

    The Initiative contributes to strengthening the local private sector, enhancing economic resilience and sustaining employment in the European Union’s southern and eastern neighbourhood as well as Sub-Saharan Africa.

    It is supported by the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD) under the EU’s External Investment Plan.

    What instruments are available?

    The SME Access to Finance Initiative makes available the following package of instruments:


    Loans for SMEs through selected financial intermediaries in target regions.


    Credit risk protection on a portfolio basis for loans and other debt instruments, granted by financial intermediaries to SMEs, as well as start-ups, women- and youth-led businesses.

    Two types of guarantees are offered:

    • Standard guarantees covering up to 50% of the first loss incurred by financial intermediaries upon default of SMEs on their loans.
    • Enhanced guarantees providing coverage of up to 80% of loans issued to (i) Covid-19 affected SMEs; (ii) SMEs located in specific geographical areas; or (iii) those dedicated to start-ups, women- or youth-led businesses.

    In both cases, the maximum loss amount is capped at up to 20% on a portfolio basis.

    Who are the target beneficiaries?

    The SME Access to Finance Initiative aims to enhance access to finance for businesses and individuals:

    • SMEs: businesses with less than 250 full-time employees
    • COVID-19 affected SMEs
    • SMEs in specific geographical areas
    • Start-ups: businesses with less than 50 full-time employees and operating for less than 36 months
    • SMEs at least 50% owned by women or young people aged less than 35 years
    • Individual female entrepreneurs
    • Individual young entrepreneurs aged less than 35 years

    Other EIB criteria may also apply.

    What countries are eligible under the Initiative?

    (*) The EIB will start operating in Libya when a Framework Agreement is signed, but negotiations with the country are on hold. Following EU sanctions against Syria in November 2011, the EIB suspended all loan and advisory activity in the country.
    (**) This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the positions of EU countries on this issue.

    How to get support as a financial institution

    If you represent a bank or a financial intermediary, please contact the EIB to participate in the SME Access to Finance Initiative.

    EIB Global

    For more than 50 years, the EIB has been the European Union’s international development bank. Our key investments across the world help create stability, promote sustainable growth and fight climate change everywhere.