You may have seen the EIB has just announced its key figures for 2017. The main takeaway: we are increasing the number of projects we approve for financing every year, reaching a record 901 last year. Along with this, our average project size is getting smaller, and we are reaching a broader range of companies that face challenges with financing.
Overall, the EIB Group provided EUR 29.6 billion to small- and medium-sized companies and mid-caps, reaching approximately 285 800 small and medium-sized companies in Europe and beyond. These firms employ about 3.9 million people in total.
A small part of this cluster of SMEs is even smaller than “small”. According to the EU definition, small firms employ less than 50 people and have either less than EUR 10 million in turnover a year, or less than EUR 10 million on their balance sheet.
Micro firms are smaller – they employ up to 10 people, make less than EUR 2 million a year or have up to EUR 2 million on their balance sheet.
These micro firms should never be underestimated, however – everyone starts out small. And it is often the new start-ups which come up with the disruptive innovations that give the economy a boost. Yet it is often also the case that the smallest players on the field are the ones in need of the most help in finding financing. Which is why the European Investment Bank Group pays specific attention to them.
One example is the Microfund for Women in Jordan. With support from the EIB and the EBRD amongst others, the fund is able to provide funding for micro-entrepreneurs such as Amena Bklezi, who runs a cooking and catering business in central Amman, and who dreams of opening her own restaurant and also teaching others. She is one of thousands who have been supported by the fund, which has been doing this for over 20 years already. It is no laughing matter.
To draw attention to the challenges SMEs, including start-ups and micro-enterprises, face on a regular basis when trying to access finance to get them started, or to grow, the EIB launched a cartoon. In “The Brood”, various animals illustrate the biases and prejudices out there. The cartoon is produced by a one-man Estonian SME (a real micro-enterprise!), Madis Ots. You can read more about the cartoon, and see previous strips, here.