Small enterprise development


Over US$24.5 billion of development aid is targeted at Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and donor interest is increasing; yet targeting small enterprises is controversial. Advocates maintain that smaller enterprises are the place where most poor people find employment and economic opportunity; targeting them with assistance makes more sense than helping larger companies (which may not need as much help anyway).

Opponents of such targeting, however, argue that much employment is also lost through ‘churning’, as small enterprises come and go. Besides, they note, it is important to look at the private sector as a whole, since small enterprises often depend on larger ones for their inputs and markets.

This page explores the debates in more detail, and points you to further reading and key resources on the topic.


DCED Synthesis Note: current debates on small enterprise support

For a DCED summary of ‘Six Debates on Small Enterprises and Development Agency Support’ click here.

Resources on small enterprises


Overview documents and links


Access to finance


Business environment reform, trade facilitation and small enterprises


High growth enterprises




Small enterprises and gender


Small enterprise productivity and innovation


Small enterprise support programmes and evaluations


Guidance for small enterprise promotion

Photo credits

Photo Credit: Chandan Dey