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The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, has introduced a novel initiative in its efforts to address Africa’s economic development needs more comprehensively. The first in a planned series of IFC Solutions Centers for Small and Medium Enterprises in Africa was officially inaugurated in Antananarivo, Madagascar, by Marc Ravalomanana, the Malagasy president.

The Solutions Center reflects IFC’s commitment to ensuring that small and medium-sized firms – the bulwark of the private sector in Africa – receive comprehensive solutions to the problems they face, helping to boost private investment-led wealth and job creation in the continent.

IFC’s SME Solutions Center in Madagascar is an integrated delivery platform for servicing and financing small businesses. The centre includes a special facility, managed by a partnership with a local financial institution sponsored by IFC, that will provide short and long-term financing to small businesses. The Solutions Center is also equipped with technology to provide these firms with access to business information, and has advisory capacity to help improve the business environment for small and medium enterprises as well.

Haydée Celaya, IFC director for Sub-Saharan Africa, says, “IFC’s centre will provide Malagasy small and medium enterprises with a one-stop solution in addressing the four key constraints to their optimal growth: better access to finance, better access to information, aiding private sector capacity building, and creating a more enabling business environment.” She adds: “IFC hopes that the SME Solutions Center in Antananarivo will serve as a successful prototype for rolling out other centres in the continent.”