SAARC Development Fund, a regional funding institution of SAARC, will soon be launching a social enterprise development programme (SEDP) to fund 80 entities annually across eight-member states, including India.

Headquartered in Thimpu, BHutan, SAARC Development Fund (SDF) was established by the heads of the eight SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) member countries in April 2010 and its governing council comprises finance ministers of these eight countries. SDF is in the process of launching the SEDP as part of its social window, SDF CEO Sunil Motiwal said in an interview to PTI.

“The programme will be implemented in all the SAARC member states with the objective of identifying and building social enterprises by using a mix of grants and concessional returnable capital. The programme intends to fund around 80 enterprises across the 8 SAARC member states annually," he said.

SDF has already committed $73.74 million for social window projects as of date out of which it has disbursed $47 million to the member states.

“Recently we have in-principle approved two energy infrastructure projects in the region with a loan commitment of $30 million under our infrastructure window. Other potential regional connectivity projects are under our active consideration to co-finance in SAARC member states,” Motiwal said.

SDF is currently implementing 12 regional projects with more than 70 implementing and lead implementing agencies covering all the member countries under the social window funding.

Stating that MSMEs are important constituent of any economy, he said the SDF will soon be come out with a programme to provide line of credit to the sector across the member states.

He said the SDF would create access to financial services which can in-turn boost job creation, raise income, reduce vulnerability and increase investments in human capital in -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka (SAARC members).

SDF recently gave in-principle approval for two infrastructure projects in energy sector. These include waste to energy project in Sri Lanka with the participation of India and hydropower project in Nepal with participation of Bangladesh and India. The total loan commitment would be $30 million.

It may be recalled that, in June of last year, the then Commerce and Industry Minister of India, Nirmala Sitharaman announced that she is considering putting together a SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) country meet for startups in order to share and exchange ideas. However, post one year nothing has been heard about same and even Sitharaman has changed its portfolio, and is now no longer in Commerce ministry.

In July last year, Prestellar Ventures, a Singapore-based venture capital firm, launched a $100 million venture capital fund exclusively for India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, India has also urged the Asian Development Bank to invest in health and fintech startups in the country, to help improve the quality of life in Asia while sharpening focus on infrastructure lending by ensuring loan disbursals within a year of request.

Via - MoneyControl

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