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As Gardens Grow in Sri Lanka, Access to Opportunities Flourishes


IFC’s partnership with SANASA Development Bank has helped increase access to financial services for micro- and small-scale entrepreneurs.  © EUSDDP.

The star-shaped singhamoku—the Sinhalese name for a purple and white ornamental flower native to Sri Lanka—decorates patios throughout the country. As Seetha Menike cultivated her own garden full of these and many other flowers found across her district, a new idea grew alongside the shoots. Gradually, she decided to turn the hobby she loved into a business growing and selling potted plants. But starting her own small enterprise required more financing than fertilizer, and she began looking for banks that would share her vision.

SANASA Development Bank saw Menike’s potential. It lent her money to grow her new business in 2015, and since then she has invested in a bigger nursery, stocked more plants, and even leased a truck to haul supplies to her nursery and deliver to customers. As her new income became more stable and regular, “I realized that I could educate my three children,” she says.

IFC’s long-standing partnership with SANASA has helped increase access to finance for micro and small entrepreneurs —especially women entrepreneurs and farmers living in Sri Lanka’s underserved regions. IFC’s advisory engagement with SANASA, supported in part by the European Union, is expected to reach out to over 100,000 small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) clients, including 30,000 women. In May 2017, IFC also increased its equity stake to 8.9 percent, making it the fourth-largest shareholder in the bank to date.

 

Reaching Entrepreneurs in Need

Sri Lanka’s SME sector is vitally important. Over 80 percent of Sri Lankan businesses qualify in this category, generating up to 50 percent of the country’s GDP. However, limited access to financing options is impeding their growth.

But loans like that offered for Menike’s flower business—which in a different era would have been overlooked entirely—can help expand small enterprises, build household incomes, and step up social development. That’s why financial inclusion is a key pillar of our strategy in Sri Lanka. In addition to supporting SANASA Development Bank, during the past five years we have also invested in Sri Lanka's NDB Bank, Commercial Bank of Ceylon, and Senkadagala Finance.

 

Financial Inclusion Fertilizes Societies

IFC’s focus on financial inclusion mirrors the goals of SANASA Development Bank, which offered Menike her loan. SANASA’s growth strategy involves long-term sustainable growth in three important sectors—SME, retail, and cooperative—to make financing more accessible to a larger number of people.

The bank’s commitment to uplifting the standards of living for low-income Sri Lankan families and SMEs positions it to make a difference in the country. It has 91 branches and provides a wide range of products and services—including technical assistance programs and entrepreneurship skills—catering to the financing needs of low-income groups and SMEs.

All of these efforts have helped Menike improve her life and her family’s prospects. Because she has been able to contribute to her children’s education, “Our eldest daughter is now a graduate and will soon get a government job. Our second daughter also completed her education while the youngest—our son—will soon attend his advanced level exams.”

To learn more about IFC's work in South Asia region, visit www.ifc.org/SouthAsia.

Published in August 2017