Poor access to finance and a difficult business environment are holding back Asia and the Pacific’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from contributing to the creation of economic wealth for development.

An evaluation by the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Independent Evaluation Department sheds useful light on how governments and their development partners can remove these barriers to unleash the development potential of SMEs in the region, especially those owned by women.


SMEs make up 97% of all businesses in Asia

Their contribution to Asia’s GDP ranges from 20-50%

East Asian SMEs contribute 43% to the countries’ GDP

Central Asian SMEs contribute 42% to the countries’ GDP

A large number of SMEs in the Asia-Pacific region are owned by women

In 2018, the Asian Development Bank conducted an independent evaluation of its $5.3 billion support to SME operations from 2005-2017

Evaluation found poor access to finance and market value chains, and difficult business environment as main barriers to SME Growth.

Armenia was one of the 5 case study countries of the evaluation.

Armenia was selected as it had a balanced portfolio featuring both public and private sector loans.

ADB’s SME intervention focused on women entrepreneurs.

Arsen Gasparyan, Sr. Adviser to the Prime Minister, Republic of Armenia: “In Armenia, we attach great importance to the development of small and medium enterprises because number one, they reduce unemployment. Number two, small and medium enterprises are the driving force for innovation.”

Andranik Grigoryan, Head-Financial System Stability & Development, Central Bank of Armenia: “This is one of the most important projects that the Central Bank of Armenia has done to support the SMEs.”

Karen Gevorgyan, Deputy Executive Director, SME Development National Center: “It was the first time that need-assessment was done for women entrepreneurship.”

Marsel Ghazaryan, Traditional bread manufacturer, Kotayq region, Armenia: “I decided to have my own production. However, I had no financial resources at that time. I had the space but no money to renovate it. I received the loan and was able to create all of this.”

Arpine Barseghyan, Co-Founder, Bnature Natural Beauty Products, Yerevan, Armenia: “My friends advised me to apply to the Small and Medium Entrepreneurship Development National Center which was providing very affordable loans and was supporting the establishment of the enterprise.”

Andranik Grigoryan, Head-Financial System Stability & Development, Central Bank of Armenia: “Based on my experience, the IFIs usually have structured products. They try to do the same product in different countries, which really does not work.”

Varazdat Karapetyan, Deputy of the National Assembly, of the Republic of Armenia: “In many cases, the men registered their enterprises in the name of women and got the money. That was the main problem in the project.”

Karen Gevorgyan, Deputy Executive Director, Small and Medium Entrepreneurship Development National Center: “If ADB is going to do a second stage I would suggest to put more stress not on the quantity of women entrepreneurship but on the quality. Not to create new ones but to develop the existing ones.”

Varazdat Karapetyan, Deputy of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia: “What we should do now, we should create good networks for them. Very strong networks can help businesses to sustain themselves.”

Our findings in Armenia supported the findings of ADB’s Independent Evaluation of its SME operations in Asia and the Pacific.

Going forward, as part of its Strategy 2030, ADB will increase its support to countries in improving the business environment for entrepreneurs and companies.

This includes small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and inclusive businesses.