The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) celebrated the achievements under its microfinance assistance project -- the Livelihoods and Inclusive Financial Expansion (LIFE) Project. The project improved economic opportunities for low-income individuals and microenterprises in the North, South, Bekaa and Mount Lebanon regions, by advancing the business skills of small entrepreneurs and expanding their access to financial services. The event was held in the presence of the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, USAID Mission Director, Eileen Devitt; LIFE Chief of Party, David Holdridge; and representatives from the microfinance and non-governmental organization sectors.

This event was an opportunity to highlight the achievements of the $20.3 million LIFE activity over the past five years. The project benefitted around 40,000 beneficiaries through business development services, in-kind grants as well as direct and indirect loans to micro and small businesses. It outlined the positive impact of partnering with microfinance institutions (MFIs) to provide a safety net for vulnerable businesses, in addition to supporting the livelihoods of small business owners through the creation of the Regional Revitalization Hubs. Through these hubs, USAID provided intensive, long-term training and equipment to over 5,000 micro and small businesses to enhance their sustainability and ability to survive the current economic crisis.

The event also shed light on the project’s responsiveness to the many challenges faced during the last three years. Since October 2019, LIFE has continuously adapted its investments to provide the needed relief to those microbusinesses most in need. LIFE provided more than 15,000 affordable loans and capital assets within the community of unbanked micro and small businesses, made desperate by the economic crisis. In August 2020, following the Port of Beirut blast, LIFE was among the first respondents to support microenterprises that were affected by the blast. Through its partners, LIFE provided technical support, in-kind grants, affordable loans, and in certain cases psychological counselling to over 350 owners of microenterprises whose businesses were destroyed after the blast.

In her opening remarks, Ambassador Shea asserted, “The U.S. government, through the United States Agency for International Development, has long made developing and advancing small Lebanese businesses a priority. For example, in 1997, USAID was the first donor to engage microfinance institutions and support the microfinance sector in Lebanon…I am particularly proud of our microfinance partnerships, which have endured despite Lebanon’s dire economic situation. We look forward to continuing our strong support for Lebanon’s private sector, especially micro and small enterprises, which are instrumental to the recovery of the Lebanese economy.”

For his part LIFE COP, David Holdridge laid down a vision of a resilient and modern Lebanon…

The ceremony included a 30-minute round table panel discussion about some of the most prominent topics related to the future of microfinance and livelihoods in Lebanon. The panel comprised the president of the Union of People with Physical Disabilities (LUPD), Sylvana Lakkis; Michel Daher Social Foundation (MDSF) President, Marleine Daher, Al Majmouaa CEO, Dr. Youssef Fawaz, EMKAN Executive General Manager, Dr. Mayada Baydas.

The ceremony concluded with remarks by Mrs. Eileen Devitt, USAID Mission Director, who commented, “It has been an inspiring journey to partner with our microfinance institutions to the benefit of marginalized businesses over the past five years. I am confident that this support is crucial for their long-term sustainability and for Lebanon’s economic rebirth.”

Source: National News Agency