Unlocking Prosperity: How the UNDP-MSMEDA Partnership Transforms Lives in Egypt

Since 1991, UNDP and MSMEDA have disbursed over 27.5 billion Egyptian pounds in loans to more than 900,000 MSMEs, creating nearly 4 million job opportunities, turning entrepreneurial dreams into reality, and fostering a vibrant business ecosystem.

June 27, 2023

In the bustling streets of Egypt, where dreams are woven, and aspirations take flight, the partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Agency (MSMEDA) is forging a path of empowerment, resilience, and innovation, touching the lives of countless individuals and families across the nation. Through our collaboration, dreams have been transformed into thriving businesses, unlocking a brighter future for many Egyptians. 

Micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) form the backbone of Egypt’s economy, accounting for a staggering 98% of private enterprises in Egypt, with 3.8 million businesses significantly contributing to the country’s economic landscape. These enterprises are not mere statistics, they represent the aspirations of entrepreneurs striving for a better future for themselves, their families, and their communities. Beyond their economic impact, MSMEs also play a crucial role in social development by providing employment to marginalized communities and catering to local needs. 

MSMEDA has been a strategic partner to UNDP Egypt since its establishment in 1991 as the Social Fund for Development. This partnership has continued to support and empower MSMEDA, enabling it to fulfil its mandate of creating jobs, promoting micro- and small-businesses, and alleviating poverty in Egypt. UNDP’s support has guided MSMEDA through critical transitions and facilitated its growth and effectiveness in serving the MSME sector. 

In the first phase, UNDP supported the establishment of the Social Fund for Development (SFD) and later supported the fund to broaden its mandate and shift its focus from community development to becoming a service provider for MSMEs. UNDP played a crucial role during this period by supporting the establishment of 33 regional offices that now cover all 27 governorates of Egypt.

The second and more substantial transition occurred in 2017 when the SFD was rebranded as "MSMEDA" and entrusted with the role of leading the MSMEs sector as a public agency. As the designated entity responsible for fostering the development of the MSMEs sector, MSMEDA works directly and in collaboration with various stakeholders, serving as a policy integrator for MSMES and entrepreneurship. This new mandate is in line with the ongoing UNDP-MSMEDA project, which is specifically designed to support MSMEDA in fulfilling its responsibilities.

Since October 2021, our new project “Capacitating MSMEDA’s transition for the empowerment of MSMEs and entrepreneurship” works to expand capacities for MSMEDA’s new services, transform the agency’s new functions to strengthen and integrate the MSME ecosystem and utilize digital transformation and innovation to increase the efficiency and resilience to shocks and crises. Here is how: 

Empowering Businesses, Women & Youth: Disbursed over 27.5 billion Egyptian pounds in loans to more than 900,000 MSMEs, creating nearly 4 million job opportunities, with 48% of total beneficiaries being women and 45% are ages 20-35. In the past two years, we have financed 155,400 micro and small-sized enterprises, disbursing nearly 5 billion Egyptian pounds, 43% women, and creating around 1.7 million short- and long-term jobs.

Capacity Building: Conducted more than 500 training workshops benefiting nearly 12,000 individuals and equipping them with essential entrepreneurship skills. 


Gender Mainstreaming: Established a dedicated Gender Unit, resulting in 48% of beneficiaries being women, promoting gender equality and inclusivity. In 2019, MSMEDA became the first public institution in the Arab world and the second globally to receive the Gender Equality Seal Award, provided by the National Council for Women and UNDP.

Strategic Innovation: We are embedding strategic innovation into MSMEDA’s structure to foster resilience and agility in serving the MSMEs sector. This is being implemented through the development of a tailored strategic innovation toolkit; exploring the future through strategic foresight and creating a sandbox environment to provide a safe space for the testing of policies, regulations, technologies, services, and business models. Importantly, this testing will not disrupt the existing MSMEs ecosystem. Additionally, a Monitoring and Evaluation Sandbox will be set up to support MSMEDA in utilizing a learning-based management approach to achieve desired outcomes. This sandbox will serve as a platform for continuous organizational learning, particularly in the context of MSMEDA's transition into becoming a knowledge hub for MSMEs in Egypt.

Internal Strategy Development: Together, we are formulating MSMEDA’s internal strategy, aligning it with its new mandate and strengthening policy development and knowledge production and dissemination. The strategy also encompasses new key areas, such as impact investment, foresighting, financial inclusion, and strategic innovation. By embracing these concepts, MSMEDA is poised to enhance its effectiveness and adaptability, while fostering an environment that encourages sustainable economic growth and social development.

Socio-Economic Impact of COVID-19 AssessmentsTogether with the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) and the African Development Bank (AfDB), we conducted the largest national survey on MSMEs, interviewing 7,500 businesses, assessing the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 on the sector, and providing policy recommendations to mitigate its effect.

Digital Transformation: Together, we developed the MSMEs National Cloud infrastructure: providing e-services to businesses to support their operations, especially during the COVID-19 crises. 

Green Economy Participation: Supported MSMEDA’s active participation at COP27, promoting green economy initiatives, and showcasing green MSMEs through exhibitions and sessions.

Enhancing Service Delivery: Our mobile unit provides non-financial services to beneficiaries residing in rural   villages. This innovative approach enhances service accessibility, improves operational efficiency, and expands outreach particularly benefiting women entrepreneurs. By bringing services closer to communities, this mobile unit saves beneficiaries valuable time and reduces the overall cost of service delivery, ultimately fostering greater inclusivity and enabling the sustainable growth of MSMEs in remote areas. 

Streamlined Processes: Automated the One-Stop-Shop, enabling businesses to access a multitude of services all at one place including issuance of temporary and final operation licenses, commercial register extraction, and tax card extraction. 

“Obtaining the project license and classification certificate within just a week has been a game-changer for me as a fabric manufacturer in Shubra. Thanks to the support of MSMEDA and UNDP’s one stop shop, I not only benefited from a seamless licensing process but also received significant tax exemptions. Additionally, the opportunity to secure a low-interest loan for my project has been instrumental in realizing my entrepreneurial aspirations. I am grateful for the invaluable assistance provided by the agency, enabling me to kickstart my business and contribute to the local economy.” - Samira Sayed Mohamed, One Stop Shop Beneficiary. 

One Stop Shop, Salah Salem, Cairo

Recognizing the pivotal role of MSMEs, the UNDP – MSMEDA partnership has been a transformative force in empowering micro, small and medium enterprises in Egypt. From providing vital financial support and expanding service delivery to fostering gender equality and digital transformation and embracing strategic innovation, the UNDP-MSMEDA partnership has left an indelible mark on the lives of everyday citizens, turning dreams into reality, and paving the way for a more resilient and inclusive future. As we reflect on the remarkable achievements of this collaboration, we look forward to witnessing even greater milestones as UNDP and MSMEDA continue their joint efforts to empower MSMEs and drive sustainable change in Egypt.

For more information please contact: 


UNDP Egypt Communication Coordinator, Noran Saied at noran.said@undp.org

Assistant Resident Representative and Inclusive Growth and Innovation Team Leader, Dr. Abeer Shakweer at abeer.shakweer@undp.org