The UAE extended Dh420 million ($114.3m) worth of trade credit support to small and medium enterprises in the first 11 months of 2020 to help companies protect their liquidity amid the coronavirus-induced economic slowdown.
"The guarantees helped protect the liquidity of SMEs amidst this challenging economic cycle, assisting businesses in reducing their cost of bank funding and allowing them to request their preferred bank to discount the invoices ... at [a] preferential rate,” federal entity Etihad Credit Insurance said on Sunday.
The support translated into Dh1 billion "secured turnover" for the firms, the agency added.
In April, ECI rolled out measures to support exporters affected by the coronavirus pandemic, saying it would help businesses facing payment and supply chain disruptions with export credit insurance and additional funding.
ECI, set up in 2018, provides credit guarantees and insurance to mitigate the political and commercial risks of exporting by offering financing or refinancing for export transactions on behalf of the UAE government. The entity has partnerships with local and international banks that can offer loans to UAE companies to fund exports to overseas buyers, with ECI providing insurance.
Small and medium enterprises are an important part of the UAE’s economy and their contribution to the country’s gross domestic product was estimated at 53 per cent in 2019, up from about 49 per cent in 2018, ECI said, quoting data from the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority.
“Their delicate lifespan is the reason SMEs are considered as high-risk by financial institutions, leading these businesses to have difficulty getting access to credit,” ECI said.
Just 50 per cent of start-ups make it to the fifth year of operation, and this drops to 33 per cent at the 10th year, according to data released by the US Bureau of Labour Statistics.
“ECI understands the vital role SMEs play in building the nation’s economy," Massimo Falcioni, chief executive of ECI, said. "That is why we have developed an online user-friendly solution in 2019 named 'SME Protect' to allow SMEs in the UAE to trade safely and confidently and gain access to international markets, thereby positioning the UAE as the global hub of trade and export.
“This will enable SMEs to evolve further and become more resilient to risks and economic situations such as this current pandemic,” he added.
Earlier this month, Etihad Credit Insurance signed an agreement with the Israel Foreign Trade Risks Insurance Corporation (Ashr'a) to cooperate in supporting exports, trade and investment between the two markets.
The development came as the UAE and Israel normalised relations after signing the Abraham Accord in September.