Dubai-based credit risk company Qarar and US lending platform Biz2X have joined forces to create the biggest loan programme for small and medium enterprises in Saudi Arabia to help bridge the financing gap these companies face.
The joint venture is expected to support the kingdom's goal of increasing the SME sector's contribution to gross domestic product to 22 per cent, up from 9 per cent currently, the companies said in a statement on Tuesday.
That would bring the contribution closer to the 35 per cent target Saudi Arabia has set in its National Transformation Programme under the kingdom's Vision 2030 initiative.
The initiative aims to connect SME borrowers to lending organisations, and offers lenders the ability to create their own marketplaces and expand their reach in the wider SME sector, the companies said.
Qarar is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Saudi Credit Bureau, better known as Simah, the kingdom's first national credit bureau licensed to provide both consumer and commercial products and services.
New York-based Biz2X is a software-as-a-service platform that helps financial institutions provide customised online lending products to SMEs.
“Together, we are offering a powerful and proven platform that will help transform the SME lending market in Saudi Arabia,” said Zaid Kamhawi, chief executive of Qarar.
Developing and empowering the SME sector is one of the key pillars of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, which aims to diversify its economy away from oil.
Since Vision 2030 was introduced in 2016, the number of SMEs in the Arab world's largest economy more than doubled to 1.14 million last year, the NTP said in its annual report for 2022.
“The kingdom is well on its way to its target of ensuring that 35 per cent of the kingdom’s GDP originates from SMEs by 2030,” it said.
The SME segment will also boost Saudi Arabia's private sector, helping the kingdom to rank among the top 15 economies globally, according to the NTP.
Riyadh has rolled out several programmes to help SMEs financially and boost their contribution to the economy.
In 2021, Saudi Arabia created the Small and Medium Enterprises Bank, a digital lender set up by the General Authority for SMEs, to increase funding and bridge the financing gap.
Last October, Saudi Aramco, the world's biggest oil-exporting company, launched its Taleed programme, which aims to support sustainable SME growth and deliver financial solutions through five funds, with a combined capital exceeding 3 billion Saudi riyals ($800 million).
The kingdom also hosts Catalyse Saudi, which explores opportunities for venture capital, private equity and other investment partnerships for SMEs and start-ups.
Qarar and Biz2X said they have extended early access to the platform to lenders.
The programme aims to enable faster and easier lending to SMEs, which “enhances the overall efficiency of the SME lending market, benefiting both borrowers and lenders alike”, the statement said.
“By bringing our technology and expertise to lenders in Saudi Arabia we are fulfilling our mission to make SME lending more accessible and efficient for businesses everywhere, fostering economic growth and prosperity,” said Rohit Arora, chief executive of Biz2X.