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RIYADH: Credit facilities provided to micro, small, and medium enterprises in Saudi Arabia saw a 20 percent rise in 2023 compared to the preceding year, marking the highest growth rate for 3 years.

Data from the Kingdom’s central bank, known as SAMA, showed borrowing lines allocated to this sector reached a total of SR275.66 billion ($73.51 billion) in the 12 months to the end of December, showing a rise from SR229.03 billion in the previous year.

The sector’s growth can be attributed to guarantee financing programs, substantial public investments, the establishment of government regulatory bodies aimed at increasing their contribution to the Kingdom’s GDP, as well as a robust entrepreneurial spirit in the region.

Medium enterprises received the majority share of credit facilities at 57 percent, amounting to SR158.41 billion, with the most notable annual growth observed in micro companies, which saw 36 percent increase to reach SR24.93 billion.

Credit extended to small enterprises, constituting 33 percent of the total share, increased by 27 percent, reaching a total of SR92.32 billion.

Micro enterprises are characterized by revenues up to SR3 million and a workforce of no more than five full-time employees. 

Small enterprises, on the other hand, exhibit earnings ranging from SR3 million to SR40 million, accompanied by up to 49 full-time workers. 

In contrast, medium enterprises have revenues falling within the range of SR40 million to SR200 million, with employee numbers ranging from 50 to 249.

Saudi banks extended 94 percent of these credit facilities, with the remaining 6 percent granted by finance companies.

Furthermore, the advances allocated to this sector represented 8.4 percent of the total credit from Saudi banks and 20.4 percent of credit facilities from finance companies.

According to Monsha’at’s SME Monitor for the fourth quarter of 2023, Saudi Arabia witnessed a 3.1 percent growth in the number of SMEs compared to the previous three months, surpassing 1.3 million in total.

This growth was fueled by robust public investment, strong entrepreneurial drive, and the region’s leading venture capital investments, as highlighted in the report.

The breakdown includes 1.14 million micro-sized companies, 150,788 small-sized firms, and 18,723 medium-sized enterprises.

In the Monshaat report, Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of Diriyah Gate Development Authority — one of the Kingdom’s giga-projects — talked up the importance of smaller companies when it comes to having a diverse economy.

“While we treasure the abiding support that each of our initiatives has received from every level of the public sector, we must also celebrate the millions of entrepreneurs and SMEs who wake up each morning with the grit and determination to turn their dreams into working business models,” he said.

In the report’s introduction, Inzerillo noted the remarkable achievement of Saudi Arabia’s female labor force participation rate, which now stands at 37 percent, surpassing the Vision 2030 target of 30 percent. This doubling of the rate within 6 years highlights the rapid progress in the country, according to Inzerillo.

Riyadh emerged as the top region with 43.7 percent of the SME landscape, followed by Makkah at 18.1 percent and Eastern Province at 10.7 percent.

As per the report, SMEs within the ecosystem are set to reap the rewards of the nearly $1 trillion investment earmarked for Riyadh over the upcoming seven years, driven by the Riyadh Expo 2030. This presents a significant opportunity for businesses that emphasize sustainability, innovation, and creativity, aligning closely with the broader diversification goals outlined in Vision 2030.

According to the report, hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs and SMEs received support from Monsha’at in 2023 through its wide array of assistance centers and upskilling initiatives.

This effort aimed to cultivate a more supportive, resilient, and developed ecosystem throughout Saudi Arabia, enhancing businesses one step at a time. Specifically, over 33,000 SMEs benefited from Monsha’at’s dedicated support centers in 2023, while more than 30,000 trainees received benefits from its academy during the same year.

Additionally, the Guaranteed Financing Program, launched in 2020 by SAMA in collaboration with Kafalah, provides a 95 percent guarantee on the value of financing offered by banks and companies under the program’s approved mechanisms.

The objective is to offer further support and enhance the financial stability of micro-enterprises, crucial for diversifying revenue streams, driving economic growth, and serving as a foundational element for Saudi Arabia’s economic progress.

Kafalah, Saudi Arabia’s initiative supporting small and medium enterprises, has allocated SR12.1 billion in loan guarantees benefiting 5,476 SMEs as of December 2023, with funding exceeding SR15.6 billion.

The Saudi Press Agency reported in February that during the same year, Kafalah supported nearly 1,076 businesswomen, providing loan guarantees exceeding SR1.7 billion.

Additionally, the guarantees provided by Kafalah increased by 11 percent annually in Riyadh, the Eastern Province, and Makkah, with promising regions seeing a 19 percent annual increase.

The program’s impact was notable, showing a 20 percent growth in establishments and total employment within six months of receiving financing.

The agency said that employment among Saudis rose by 7 percent and 9 percent, respectively, a year after obtaining Kafalah loan guarantees, reaching 17 percent growth two years later.

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