Growth? Yes, inclusive growth

Economic growth remains the goal of most governments, but growth does not always benefit all. That is why Enabel prefers to aim for ‘inclusive growth’, i.e. growth that ensures participation of women, young people and vulnerable groups and growth that also respects the environment and decent work standards.


In 2023, Enabel implemented more than 40 projects designed to contribute to inclusive growth in 15 countries, adding up to a portfolio worth 300 million euros. These projects are financed either by the Belgian Development Cooperation or by other donors, mainly the European Union.

Enabel supports entrepreneurship at all stages, from business creation and development to growth, in sectors ranging from agriculture, construction and livestock to the digital, energy and innovation, and Enabel does so increasingly in the green and circular economy. The projects that Enabel supports are also driven by people who are generally excluded or under-represented, like women and young people.


The role of SMEs

Achieving inclusive growth is a complex challenge, requiring collaboration and coordination between governments, civil society, the private sector and international organisations.

Enabel is particularly convinced of the key role that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can play through innovative and inclusive entrepreneurship. This is why we have created a specific unit dedicated to private sector development and engagement.


Three levels of change

Enabel’s approach targets three levels of change:

  • At macro level: We improve governance and the regulatory framework and create an environment conducive to inclusive economic initiatives.
  • At meso level: We assist support entities, so that they in turn can offer better services. In practical terms, this means that we support business incubators and accelerators and work with sector federations and associations as well as with organisations that specifically aim to promote entrepreneurship among women and young people.
  • And at micro level: Enabel attaches much importance to strengthening entrepreneurs and businesses. We ensure that the right services are available to enable them to develop and improve their performance, thereby creating social and economic added value and jobs.

Here are five projects that illustrate our approach.

PEM WECCO (Senegal) & PEM N’Zassa (Côte d’Ivoire)

PEMs (Projects for Entrepreneurial Mobility) bring together Belgian companies and SMEs from Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal. The aim is to facilitate private economic partnerships between these countries. Enabel finances business trips and organises meetings in Belgium.

Entreprena (Guinea)

Entreprena targets four components of Guinean entrepreneurship: agricultural entrepreneurship, women’s entrepreneurship and urban and green economy. This project is aimed at creating SMEs and start-ups and strengthening their competences and competitiveness. Access to financial services and technical and economic support play a central role.

In the ‘green economy’ component, the aim is to build local capacity in forestry management, to promote the agro-ecological transition and to develop local ecotourism. The project is completed. It supported 7,500 entrepreneurs (56% of whom were women) and created 11,000 jobs.

DigiBoost (Benin)

In Benin, Enabel coordinated the DigiBoost project, which aimed to support the digital sector. Among other things, the project has led to the creation and training of the Women In Tech community in Benin, bringing together women entrepreneurs and digital professionals.

It also helped the Innovative Entrepreneurship Support Structures in Benin restructuring their incubation and acceleration programmes for start-ups and provided them with computer equipment. 300 start-ups were incubated and accelerated through increased support for civil society organisations.

Awa Prize

The Awa Prize is inspired by a simple fact: One in three businesses worldwide is owned by a woman. And even though most self-employed workers in sub-Saharan Africa are women, women face more obstacles in developing and managing their business than men.

Each year, through the Awa Prize competition the work of all women who are having a positive impact on their communities through their businesses is celebrated and twelve of these women are rewarded. In 2024, the Awa Prize will be awarded to women entrepreneurs active in the green and circular economy.


In Tanzania, Enabel launched the IncluCities project in 2023. This project supports companies that are active in the green and circular economy (plastic recycling and waste management). The aim is to help them through competence development, access to finance and business development training.

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