Micro & Small Enterprise Development Project for Pro-poor Growth in Sri Lanka (Enter-Growth Project)

The project contributes to the generation of pro-poor economic growth and quality employment for women and men, through an integrated programme for the development of micro and small enterprises that focuses on the North-West and North-Central provinces.

This programme supported the implementation of the Government’s strategy for poverty reduction and the generation of quality employment for women and men through a coherent and integrated micro and small enterprise development programme that targets two provinces with a high incidence of poverty (North-West and North-Central); that addresses issues at the national level that will enhance impact in the provinces; and that transfers lessons learnt to the national policy level as well as other parts of the country.


The programme contributed to the generation of pro-poor economic growth and quality employment for women and men, through an integrated programme for the development of micro and small enterprises that focused on the North-West and North-Central provinces. The reduction in poverty and unemployment indirectly contributed to the sustainability of peace and reconciliation.

  • Expanded markets for services and products of micro and small enterprises of women and men in the North-West and North-Central provinces, through increased productivity and competitiveness, a stronger demand orientation, and better market linkages.
  • A policy, legislative and regulatory environment in North-West and North-Central province that is conducive to the growth of micro and small enterprises by women and men, and will bring more of them into the formal economy.
  • Authorities and communities in which the poor predominate regard starting and growing micro and small enterprises by women and men as a socially and economically attractive activity.
  • Greater access country-wide to market-led, sustainable business services for micro and small enterprises owned by women and men and managed financing system that is compatible with the nature of village economies.


In the integrated programme in the provinces, the programme took a participative and inclusive approach to planning and developing its specific interventions, to ensure a high degree of relevance and ownership. It focused its work on selected sub-sectors with high potential for growth and poverty reduction. Based on consultations conducted, the primary entry point was expanding the access of micro and small enterprises to markets for their products and services. Here, the programme supported activities that lead to a more dynamic and effective market for business services that enable enterprises to improve their productivity, become more market-led, and develop linkages to new markets. This included developing new, more demand-driven business services and the capacity to deliver them, including services embedded in value chains. It also included promotion of the use of business services.

Improved demand for services also resulted from work on the project’s second entry point, strengthening enterprise culture. This included a social marketing campaign that promoted enterprise as a way out of poverty, and support to the introduction of business awareness training in vocational schools. Improving the local policy and regulatory environment formed the programme’s third entry point. The programme promoted organisations of micro and small enterprises and built the capacity of business associations to serve their members, moderate the development of a dialogue between micro and small enterprises and the authorities, support specific policy and regulatory improvements, and strengthen the authorities’ capacity to develop and maintain an enabling environment.

At the national level, the programme built on the achievements of the Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) project, with the objective of a fully sustainable programme that will continue to increase access to SIYB, Expand Your Business (EYB) and related business services. In addition, commercial mass media programmes were developed to provide small businesses with information and an opportunity to voice their concerns in a public forum. The experience gained through the programmes in the provinces was shared with national level stakeholders and representatives from other provinces.

Key achievements

Market access
Four regional value chain exercises were completed, on coir, dairy, floriculture and packaging. One outcome of the coir value chain exercise is the development of a Good Working Practices document, in response to deplorable working conditions (including child and a form of bonded labour) in coir mills. In dairy, the exercise provided impetus to the establishment of breeding farms; a major bottle neck. The work on packaging is complemented by development of packaging training.

The regulatory environment
The major achievement in this area was the completion of training of 2,023 local officials on business registration and licensing. This was carried by the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration (SLIDA), with which the project developed certificate level courses on public administration for private sector development.

The MSE Forums for public-private dialogue, which are key to Enter-Growth's approach, have largely been taken over by local stakeholders and show further signs of addressing business enabling environment issues independently.

Enterprise culture
The Palama campaign for enterprise culture was completed in all four districts. Some 140,000 people have participated in the theatre events. Work on the entrepreneurship development curriculum with then National Institute of Education is continuing.

National level
Two e-commerce “meta-markets” have become operational, including one with the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL).