Mastercard Foundation and First Consult announce program to support 72,000 micro, small, and medium enterprises

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 15, 2023 — The Mastercard Foundation and First Consult have announced the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise Recovery and Resilience (“MESMER”) Program to support 72,200 informal, start-up, and formal enterprises.

The program will also create 410,800 jobs within enterprises by building the resilience and growth prospects of MSMEs through access to finance, business development, and psychosocial support. The Ministry of Labor and Skills will be the lead partner guiding the program’s strategic execution.

MESMER will address three fundamental challenges:

  • Facilitating credit access to MSMEs closely working with financial institutions through liquidity funding,
  • Providing technical assistance to financial service providers, and
  • Providing demand-driven Business Development Services and psychosocial support services to ensure enterprise resilience and growth are sustained while the responsibilities of managing credit are It will also support the recovery of businesses in conflict-affected regions.

Most importantly, the MESMER program will bridge the relationship between MSMEs and financial institutions, creating information symmetry, credit history, better Know your Customers (KYC) procedures and improved credit eligibility. This will provide a suitable environment for MSMEs to borrow more and for financial institutions to continue to serve the MSME market.

This introduction and linkage with private financial institutions will additionally help the MSME segment to build a credit history, enabling them to access finance in the future without guarantees while also demonstrating the robustness and business case of this market segment to the banks.

This MESMER program builds on the success of the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program (CRRP) launched in 2020.

The CRRP was created in response to the short-term negative impacts of the pandemic by providing grants and soft loans to strengthen the resilience of MSMEs. The Foundation committed $17 million for soft loans, and it unlocked a matching fund from two partner commercial banks (Awash and Dashen Bank), creating a total fund of $34 million to support more than 15,000 enterprises over two years.

One of the significant successes of the CRRP program was that over 80 percent of participating MSMEs were first-time borrowers from any financial institution with no prior credit experience, hence creating access and bringing MSMEs into the formal banking system. Web-based application and screening shortened the application process and reduced partner banks’ burden and cost of processing applications. The program also demonstrated the importance of working with financial institutions to create resilient MSMEs.

After agriculture, MSMEs are Ethiopia’s second-largest employment-generating sector and are the engines of economic growth and job creation. However, they face various challenges, such as difficulty in accessing finance. A 2021 study by First Consult estimates that 1.5 million MSMEs in Ethiopia face a financing gap of $6.1 billion, which would create 7.5 million jobs if addressed. Other critical constraints to the growth of MSMEs besides lack of access to finance include lack of collateral, weak entrepreneurial and business management skills, little to no capacity to absorb shocks, and a low level of financial service awareness.

As the Ethiopian economy faces multiple shocks and challenges, MSMEs need to be even more supported to withstand them and stay afloat while building assets for long-term resilience.

Through its foremost access-to-finance component, the MESMER program plans to disburse its total budget of $48.9 million via partner financial institutions, grants, and soft loans countrywide, with the grant primarily focusing on conflict-affected areas and on women and young people. It will also expand its rural outreach through technology-enabled interventions by leveraging the rural network of microfinance institutions. The MESMER program will additionally offer diversified financial services that suit the specific needs of enterprises, such as leasing and interest-free financial services.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of building MSMEs that are resilient to man-made and natural disasters. At the Ministry of Labor and Skills, we recognize the critical role that MSMEs play in creating jobs and boosting economic growth. Hence, through our partnership with First Consult and the Mastercard Foundation, we are proud to support the MESMER program, which will provide critical financial and psychosocial support to MSMEs impacted by both manmade and natural disasters,” said H.E. Mr. Nigussu Tilahun, State Minister of the Ministry of Labor and Skills.

“One of the major successes of the program was that over 80 percent of the MSMEs served were first-time borrowers with no prior credit experience from any financial institution, hence creating access and bringing MSMEs into the formal banking system,” said Mr. Kenno Itana, MESMER Team Leader at First Consult.

“MESMER is designed to support business recovery and growth. It will create access to affordable finance for start-ups and MSMEs across the country. Support in conflict-affected regions will ensure recovery. We believe a combination of relevant skills and business development services, affordable financial services, as well as the passion of the entrepreneur will ensure enterprise survival and growth. Along with various other Foundation partnerships, MESMER will make a significant difference in creating a pipeline of investable business and contribute to the country’s ambition to transition to a private sector-led economy,” said Samuel Yalew Adela, Mastercard Foundation Country Director for Ethiopia.

About the Ministry of Labor and Skills

The F.D.R.E. Ministry of Labor and Skills, under its current structure, is an institution established in 2018 under Council of Ministers Registration number 435/2011 and is accountable to the Prime Minister of the F.D.R.E. The Ministry is responsible for administering, collaborating, and overseeing job creation agendas throughout all sectors. To ensure the creation of sustainable jobs, the Ministry plans on facilitating and assisting in the creation of millions of jobs by 2030.

For more information, please visit:

About First Consult

First Consult is a leading economic development consulting firm implementing projects in Ethiopia. Founded in 2006, First Consult has grown to design and implement projects across the agriculture, manufacturing, and service sectors. Its multidisciplinary teams combine a capacity to execute with clarity of the local context. First Consult has delivered at-scale real impact in terms of jobs creation, business formation, business growth, investment attraction and mobilization. For more information about First Consult, please visit:

About the Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to enable young people in Africa and in Indigenous communities in Canada to access dignified and fulfilling work. It is one of the largest private foundations in the world with a mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. It was established in 2006 through the generosity of Mastercard when it became a public company. The Foundation is an independent organization, and its policies, operations, and program decisions are determined by its own Board of Directors and senior leadership team. It is a registered Canadian charity with offices in Toronto, Kigali, Accra and Nairobi, Kampala, Lagos, Dakar, and Addis Ababa.

This blog was originally published by Mastercard Foundation