APRACA in Colombo: Focus on SMEs, entrepreneurship and developing value chains

The inauguration ceremony of the Asia Pacific Rural and Agricultural Credit Association’s (APRACA) regional policy forum was held at Hilton, Colombo yesterday. The forum will be continued till October 10 at the same venue. Foreign delegates from member countries are also participating in the event.

It is after many years that Sri Lanka is hosting the forum which will discuss challenges and tools to enhance access to finance by MSMEs (Micro Small Medium Enterprises) in the Asia Pacific Region. Recommendations emanating from the regional forum will guide APRACA member on enhancing strategies to enhance MSME financing. “It is a privilege to host the regional policy forum,” said General Manager, CEO of Bank of Ceylon and the Vice-Chair APRACA Senarath Bandara. He further addressed that this event offers opportunity for local banks and financial institutions to expand and strengthen their network with other similar institutions in the region.

“This year we are participating in the policy forum on financing Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises: Solution for missing middle,” said Shiba Raj Shrestha, Deputy Governor, Nepal Rastra Bank and Chairman, APRACA. According to Anushka Wijesinha, Advisor, Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade, SMEs are key to inclusive growth due to their wide geographical spread and wide sectorial coverage. Altogether majority prefer government banks for financing. However low GDP growth context, lack of specialized credit lines, continued over reliance on concessionary credit lines are some issues faced by SMEs. The National export strategy –target of US $ 28 billion by 2022, Innovation and Entrepreneur strategy and trade adjustment program are some new national initiatives to benefit SMEs.

According to Nimal Fernando, Chief Risk Officer, Bank of Ceylon, weakness in cash flow, irregular supply chain, lack of infrastructure for data security and too much dependency on key person are some risks faced by SMEs.

APRACA is a non-governmental international organization. It involves central banks, agricultural and development banks, commercial banks, apex organizations, federations of financial institutions and rural development institutions in the region. The headquarters is situated in Bangkok, Thailand. It has been praised as an association that has worked for the rural growth and development to uplift the rural poor in the Asia-Pacific region.