Remarks by USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah Opening the "Access to Capital" Panel at the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship

Monday, April 26, 2010
"Access to Capital" Panel at the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship

Thank you so much for being here. This panel really does present an exciting opportunity to have a discussion with some key entrepreneurial leaders in the social sector, the business sector, here at home in the United States, and all around the world. One of the top concerns that entrepreneurs have articulated everywhere, and perhaps more so in the last few years because of what's been happening in our financial markets, is access to capital. And while we recognize that capital is the oxygen of our business, today we hope to learn more about what are some of the constraints and what are some of the ideas or initiatives that are starting to alleviate those constraints so that entrepreneurial change agents all around the world can get access to the resources, capital, and technical resources, relationship resources and ideas necessary to really take forward their spirit and their energy.

At the U.S. Agency for International Development, we've had a long history in providing support to entrepreneurs in various forms. We're proud to have supported microfinance and microenterprise in more than 60 countries. In 2008 alone, we supported more than 4 million borrowers and almost 3 million savers, 62% of which were women. But as we all know, microfinance is one small part of what's necessary. Programs like our Palestinian Investment Partners Program and countless others that leverage our development credit authority and the ability to bring credit and technical support to small businesses, medium-sized businesses and, in some cases, large initiatives are also a critical part of the solution. In fact, one of the program leaders from the Palestinian Investment Partners is here today, Fatima Aljada, and we were pleased to understand that our recent support for your work has led to a sewing workshop and business that's created sales growth of over 130% and 65 new jobs.

Through all of these efforts, we have really tried to learn what works and what doesn't work in supporting entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial activity. We recently had a global jam, which is a sort of international online opportunity to listen to others tell us how we can do things differently. We had more than 7,000 participants from more than 150 countries come talk to us on that three-day online event and it was a great opportunity to listen to leaders from all around the world.

But what we heard led us to believe that we have some challenges going forward in this space in particular. We heard very clearly that, especially in the area of entrepreneurship, that we as an agency and that with so many of our partners, could do a much better job of taking risks, of finding entrepreneurs, and of providing them with support at different levels of activity, whether it's a small business in a rural village or a large enterprise in a major urban area. We learned that deal flow is a real constraint for firms and for funds that are out there, especially when trying to provide support 20,000 dollars at a time to small scale businesses, articulating the opportunities and going out and sourcing deals that can then be transacted upon proved to be a real challenge. And we learned that some of the tools that we have here in the United States, as advanced as they might be for our economy, are not always the most effective tools to be deployed in Muslim majority countries, especially in this area and in this field.

So to help grapple with some of these challenges we are pleased that today we have an absolutely outstanding panel to have an open discussion with you about those challenges and a number of others.

Washington, DC