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IDB opens Inter-American forum on microenterprise

The Inter-American Development Bank today opened its fourth annual regional conference on microenterprise, a key factor for economic and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The meeting, held at the headquarters of the Dominican Republic’s Central Bank, started with a minute of silence in memory of the victims of Monday’s aviation accident in New York, in which 175 Dominicans died.

The three-day Inter-American Forum on Microenterprise will bring together more than 700 experts in the field of microenterprise development. Participants will discuss the latest tools and most successful methods for promoting microfinance and other services tailored for the region’s tiniest businesses, which employ some 150 million people.

In her speech to the delegates, Dominican Vice President Milagros Ortiz Bosch highlighted the importance of microenterprise in her own country, where they generate over one-third of its jobs and one-quarter of its gross domestic product.

"Microenterprise has become one of the most dynamic sectors in terms of its absorption of people who enter the labor market and its productive innovations. Together with small- and medium-size businesses, they play a leading role in our national development with an extraordinary flexibility to adapt to change," she said.

The manager of the IDB’s Multilateral Investment Fund, Donald Terry, pointed out that Latin America and the Caribbean have witnessed notable innovations in the field of microfinance over the past few years, especially in terms of investments and the introduction of new technologies, management tools and risk control systems that allow microfinance institutions to provide their clients faster, more flexible and reasonably priced services.

Nevertheless, Terry told the delegates, most countries in the region had still to work hard to create the right conditions for microfinance to develop and microenterprises to flourish. "We need to do much better. The IDB and MIF are there to help you in your efforts," he said.

The IDB and MIF, Terry said, are also working on projects to link microfinance institutions with remittances, the billions of dollars sent to Latin American and Caribbean countries every year by migrants working in other countries.

The Inter-American Forum on Microenterprise will bring together delegates from NGOs, community groups, consulting firms, foundations, investment funds, bilateral and multilateral institutions and government agencies that support microenterprise.

Among other issues, they will discuss the latest developments in training for microentrepreneurs, fair trade as a tool for opening new markets for microproducers, the nourishing of young entrepreneurs of modest means, microenterprise’s environmental impact and the use of new technologies to bring microfinancial services to underserved rural areas.

The conference is sponsored by the IDB, the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and the European Commission’s delegation in the Dominican Republic. It is also supported by numerous multilateral institutions, bilateral cooperation agencies, national small-business promotion agencies and private sector firms.

IDB, Microenterprise and the Dominican Republic

Since 1978, the IDB, a pioneer in microfinance development, has invested some $800 million in more than 500 microenterprise-development projects through a wide range of instruments, from global loans to expand access to credit to grants to strengthen microfinance institutions and specialized NGOs that work directly with microentrepreneurs in low-income rural and urban areas of Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the Dominican Republic, where more than 350,000 microenterprises and small businesses employ over one million people, the IDB and MIF have supported several Dominican banks, credit unions and nonprofit organizations that provide microcredit.

Microenterprise Development Awards

On Thursday evening the IDB will hold an awards ceremony for its annual prizes for institutions and individuals that excel in their support for microenterprise development in the region.

Among this year’s winners are institutions from Bolivia, the Dominican Republic and Paraguay, while two Trinidadian social development leaders won the IDB’s prize for social entrepreneurship.

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