ISLAMABAD - The MoU between Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) and top financial institutions (FIs) of the country would ease financial support to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to develop livestock and horticulture sectors in 22 districts of Sindh and Balochistan.

This shared understanding by all stakeholders emerged at the signing ceremony to partner with 5 more FIs, making it a total of 19 FIs, that are on board for the EU funded Growth for Rural Advancement and Sustainable Progress (GRASP), being implemented by International Trade Centre (ITC) in partnership with PPAF and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Besides others, Zain ul-Haq Qureshi, Chief Executive Officer, Asia Insurance Company Limited; Hussain Ali Haider, Country Head - SMED, Askari Bank Limited; Sardar Mohammad Abubakr, Chief Finance & Digital Officer, Mobilink Microfinance Bank Limited; Ali Raza Anjum, Chief Operating Officer, The First Microfinance Bank Limited; and Arshad Hassan Awan, Executive Vice President (Credit Division), Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited were present on the occasion to sign MoUs on their organisations’ behalf. Previously in Karachi on 9th Dec 2021, PPAF had signed MoUs with Allied Bank Limited, Advans Pakistan Microfinance Bank Limited, ASA Pakistan Limited, Bank Alfalah Limited, JS Bank Limited, Meezan Bank Limited, National Bank of Pakistan, Pak Oman Microfinance Bank Limited, SAFCO Support Foundation, Sindh Enterprise Development Fund, Sindh Microfinance Bank Limited, Shah Sachal Sami Foundation (SSSF), Thardeep Microfinance Foundation and United Bank Limited (UBL).

 Both the ceremonies were attended by the CEOs and group heads of the FIs.

Speaking on the occasion, Nadir Gul, COO PPAF, emphasised the need for partnering with FIs to strengthen the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector. He further added that SMEs are the pivotal contributors to the economy hence need to be supported fully for the sustainable development of the country. He welcomed the overwhelming response of the FIs to join hands in ensuring access to finance for businesses graduation. Speaking on the occasion, Irshad Khan Abbasi, Group Head, PPAF, was of view that linking FIs with other programs of PPAF will help greatly increasing access to finance among rural communities.

Tariq Sardar reiterated that GRASP is a flagship project of ITC, and it is fully committed to strengthening SMEs at the grassroots level but also pushing to provide a conducive environment and pro-SME policies at the macro level.

Muhammad Shahbaz Jamil, President, Zarai Taraqiati Bank (ZTBL), applauded PPAF, under the umbrella of GRASP, for taking this initiative to support the growth of agri-based enterprises. He also shared a statistic that ZTBL has a 20% share of agriculture lending and offered commitment from ZTBL to ensure the growth of SMEs. While assuring support of Mobilink to the GRASP project, Mohammad Abubakr highlighted the need to expand Digital Financial Services (DFS) to include remote areas. He also pointed out the role corporate aggregators can play in ensuring project delivery and enhancing the impact of the project. Hussain Ali Haider, while appreciating the initiative, stated that handholding and mentoring of beneficiaries will strengthen the whole value chain in the targeted districts.