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IDB to hold Microenterprise Forum in Colombia

The Inter-American Development Bank will hold on September 8-10 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, the 7th Inter-American Forum on Microenterprise, a conference on a key economic sector that generates nearly half the jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Microenterprises are the principal source of income and jobs for tens of millions of families in this region, where there are some 50 million of these businesses, which traditionally have no more than 10 workers. In Colombia alone there are around one million microenterprises involved in retail commerce, services and industry.

Colombia President Alvaro Uribe and IDB President Enrique V. Iglesias are due to open the forum formally on Thursday, September 9 at Cartagena’s Convention Center. This year’s event, which is being co-organized by the IDB’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Division and Colombian trade financing bank Bancoldex, is expected to bring together more than 1,000 participants from the Americas, Europe and Africa.

These annual forums draw delegates from international institutions, non-governmental organizations, foundations, social investment funds, microfinance institutions, credit unions, commercial banks, business development consulting firms, universities and government agencies to discuss their experiences and the latest research and developments in the fields of microfinance and microenterprise.

This year, under the title Changing Climate, Shared Responsibilities, the forum will focus on the necessary conditions for fostering microenterprises and small businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean, in the face of the challenges and opportunities posed by phenomena such as globalization and trade liberalization.

During the conference’s sessions participants will analyze lessons learned in various countries on the policies, laws and regulations that can help microenterprises and small businesses flourish; the main obstacles these businesses encounter and which financial and non-financial services can raise their productivity.

Among other issues, the forum’s panels will discuss:

  • The economic and social impact of microenterprise.
  • How microcredit can reach the poorest people.
  • The state’s role in expanding microfinance.
  • Opportunities for microenterprises in free trade agreements.
  • The promotion of entrepreneurship in Latin America.

The forum will also have an exposition with stands of leading institutions in microfinance and microenterprise development and the latest technologies for the sector, as well as a handcraft fair for wares made and sold by microentrepreneurs.

In the evening of Thursday, September 9 the IDB will present the Inter-American Awards for Microenterprise Development, which recognize the extraordinary contributions of institutions and individuals to microenterprise and community development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Before the forum, the IDB will hold two workshops on supervision and regulation of microfinance institutions and integrated productive networks to boost microenterprises’ competitiveness. On Wednesday, September 8, the IDB’s Multilateral Investment Fund will hold a conference in Cartagena’s Convention Center on the links between remittances and microfinance in Colombia and the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The IDB is the leading source of financing for microenterprise in Latin America and the Caribbean. Since 1978, when it launched its Small Projects Program, the IDB has devoted nearly $1 billion in more than 500 microenterprise-related projects.

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