SMALL and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries will get more help to access global value chains under a partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Centre for Technology, Innovation and Sustainable Development and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
The partnership will provide SMEs with digital and financial tools to help them better leverage data and access financing solutions, as well as opportunities for SMEs, including fintechs, to expand to developing countries through the UNDP's global network of 170 offices.
As a start, UNDP and MAS will bring together three existing programmes - Cultiv@te, Business sans Borders (BSB) and API Exchange (APIX) - to support SMEs in accessing solutions and selling their products.
Cultiv@te is a UNDP agri-tech programme that sources for solutions from startups and research and development teams worldwide; BSB is a joint initiative by MAS and the Infocomm Media Development Authority to provide an open and global digital infrastructure for seamless trade discovery and digital business services connectivity.
APIX is a cross-border open innovation platform supported by the MAS, which serves as a curated global marketplace for application programming interfaces (APIs) for financial institutions and fintechs.
The combination of these three programmes will facilitate SMEs' global outreach and provide them access to innovative financial and digital tools, UNDP and MAS said.
Solutions developed by finalists in the Cultiv@te programme will be listed on the BSB hub, making them accessible to SMEs across the UNDP's focus countries. SMEs can use the solutions to improve their agriculture production, and then sell the crops to a global market and take up financing options via the same BSB platform.
UNDP and MAS plan to explore country-specific use cases in Africa to get more SMEs to adopt digital finance. SMEs with suitable capabilities would be provided access to the APIX platform and its financial sector APIs to test and develop financing solutions for trade, climate resilience, urban farming and more.
In addition, UNDP and MAS will pilot the use of blockchain technology for product identification, validation and traceability in traditional supply chains such as agriculture and food products, building on UNDP's studies on blockchain applications for food traceability.
Such technology solutions would give the SMEs and their products greater credibility in the eyes of international buyers, and help the businesses access more opportunities on a global level.
Finally, UNDP is open to connecting its innovation efforts to the BSB hub Sandbox, a repository of data and problem statements, to help design and develop solutions to improve services for SMEs.
Said Bradley Busetto, director of the UNDP Global Centre Singapore: "SMEs drive growth in the developing world, and strong, digitally-linked SMEs are crucial to the world's recovery from the pandemic. We are thrilled to partner with MAS to help prototype and scale innovative financial solutions across the developing world."
Sopnendu Mohanty, chief fintech officer at MAS, noted that technology advances have made it possible to integrate financial-service solutions across sectors, such as using fintech to power agri-trades. "The close cooperation between MAS and UNDP to leverage Cultiv@te, BSB and APIX will make technology and financial services more accessible to parts of the regional and global economy and bring about more inclusive growth," he said.