The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (Opic) and Citi have agreed on a US$150mn facility for small and medium-sized enterprises in Paraguay, with a focus on women-owned businesses.

Opic, the US development finance institution, will provide US$138mn and Citi US$11.5mn to Banco Regional, a Paraguayan bank, which will on-lend to its clients. At least one-third of the Opic loan proceeds will be directed exclusively to women-owned or women-led SMEs, Opic says in a statement.

“Small and medium-sized businesses must have access to finance and credit is often constrained for businesses that need it the most, particularly women-owned enterprises,” says Opic COO Ryan Brennan.

The financing is delivered as part of Opic’s 2X Women’s Initiative, which was launched in March 2018. Through this project the institution is seeking to invest over US$350mn and mobilise another US$1bn in capital to support enterprises that provide products or services that internationally empower women.

It is not the first time Opic and Citi have worked together on a women-focused deal in Paraguay. Among GTR’s 2019 Best Deals was a similar US$101mn facility for Banco Sudameris, which also committed a percentage of the proceeds specifically for women-owned and women-led businesses. US$94mn was funded via Opic’s ‘Certificate of Participation’ programme, where a note is placed in the capital markets and bought by investors, with the remaining provided by Citi.

According to the World Bank’s Enterprise Survey rankings of the top 10 obstacles to operating a business, access to finance was rated fourth in Paraguay. This same survey also highlights that while over 80% of large businesses in the country have a bank loan or a line of credit, just under half of small business have such financing.

The World Bank’s 2019 ‘Doing Business’ report further ranked Paraguay 124th out of 190 economies for ease of accessing credit.