The Covid-19 pandemic had a substantial impact on C.A.R.’s economy but appears now somewhat contained. The number of positive cases and related deaths has been very limited over the last few months, even though most containment measures have been progressively loosened. Despite some progress since the February 2019 peace agreement, the security situation remains precarious. Despite some delays in voter registration, the first round of the presidential and general elections is still scheduled on December 27.
International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department
In the past two years, the NBG has adopted a series of measures to strengthen nonbank sector financial regulation, supervision, and oversight.1 The MCM TA mission in 2017 provided recommendations along these lines, most of which have been implemented by the NBG. Currently, the nonbank sector consists of Micro Financial Institutions (MFIs) and Loan Issuing Entities (LIEs). In reforming the sector, the NBG has, among others: (i) amended laws and issued new and revised regulations on registration, capital, and liquidity requirements for MFIs; (ii) significantly expanded supervisory powers and authorities and increased supervisory resources for the nonbank sector; (iii) registered 200 LIEs; and (iv) put in place consumer protection and responsibility lending rules. These new measures have helped to enhance the resilience of the nonbank sector, weed out those that are non-viable, and improved the reputation of the MFI brand.
Mr. Armand Fouejieu, Anta Ndoye, and Tetyana Sydorenko
Countries in the MENAP and CCA regions have the lowest levels of financial inclusion of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the world. The paper provides empirical evidence on the drivers of SME access to finance for a large sample of countries, and identifies key policy priorities for these two regions: economic and institutional stability, competition, public sector size and government effectiveness, credit information infrastructure (e.g., credit registries), the business environment (e.g., legal frameworks for contract enforcement), and financial supervisory and regulatory capacity. The analysis also shows that improving credit information, economic competition, the business environment along with economic development and better governance would help close the SME financial inclusion gap between MENAP and CCA regions and the best performers. The paper concludes on the need to adopt holistic policy strategies that take into account the full range of macro and institutional requirements and reforms, and prioritize these reforms in accordance with each country’s specific characteristics.
Vahram Stepanyan, Gohar Abajyan, Anta Ndoye, and Ms. Marwa Alnasaa
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are a cornerstone of Arab economies, accounting for over 90 percent of all businesses and providing a major source of new job creation. Governments across the Arab World recognize the important role that SMEs can play in delivering higher and more inclusive growth. Many have rightly placed SME development at the center of growth and jobs strategies to meet the needs of young populations. Authorities have initiated policy interventions and schemes to support SME development. But progress so far has been patchy, and more comprehensive policy action is needed.
Fostering vibrant and competitive SMEs that contribute to employment opportunities and high value-added output requires various stakeholders to deliver on a broad range of factors. Arab governments need a holistic policy approach that addresses the gaps in access to finance, creates an enabling business environment, and upgrades human capital and infrastructure. The approach should also promote an entrepreneurial mindset.
Mr. Benedicte Baduel, Carolin Geginat, and Ms. Gaelle Pierre
This paper examines the extent to which firms in selected MENA countries reported being constrained by the business environment around the time of the Arab Spring and the extent to which these constraints affected their employment performance. The results suggest that small firms in MENA faced more structural constraints than similar firms in other regions. We also find that MENA firms’ weaker job creation can be explained in great part by the macroeconomic environment and structural constraints. Low GDP growth, falling external competitiveness, corruption, lack of access to finance and poor access to electricity are found to explain a significant part of the lack of employment growth in MENA firms compared to their peers.