Trading Up


2017 - 2023

MEDA, in partnership with Global Affairs Canada, Sarona Asset Management and the University of Waterloo, seek to improve household economic wellbeing for women and men employees and smallholder farmers through advancing trade and economic growth of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) across Africa, Asia and Latin America.


Trading Up

Trade plays a vital role in promoting inclusive growth in local economies. Yet SMEs struggle to access short-term financing that enables them to increase their competitiveness by allowing them to offer stable employment and develop supply chains served by small-scale enterprises.


Trading Up is a blended finance project combining investment and technical training to increase the availability of trade finance to SMEs and to strengthen the capacity of market actors in the trade finance ecosystem, improving economic wellbeing of SMEs, employees and small farmers.


Through investing in 10 Trade Finance Intermediaries (TFIs) that provide financing to 5,000 SMEs. This will support the creation of 7,500 jobs and maintain 15,000 jobs. To enhance development outcomes, 10 TFIs and 10 – 12 farmer associations will receive technical assistance benefitting 10,000 smallholder farmers.


Although developing economies are achieving significant economic advancement, growth is not even and the benefits are not realized by all. The World Bank reports significant income and livelihood disparities within and across low and middle-income countries. These disparities are exacerbated forwomen and youth who face barriers based on their gender and age. According to the United Nations, 1.3 billion people live in multi-dimensional poverty with many middle-income countries like Nigeria, Laos and Philippines having over 50% of their population living in poverty.


SMEs play a significant role in the advancement of trade, boosting economic growth and reducing poverty. However, they are unable to operate at an optimal level due to a lack of trade finance. Trade finance, also known as working capital or short-term financing, is the foundation for many SMEs. Trade finance enables SMEs to:

  • Buy needed materials to fulfill orders
  • Finance unpaid accounts receivable that can leave small companies hamstrung
  • Smooth cash flows and;
  • Pay employees and suppliers faster

According to research commissioned by Trading Up, global unmet demand for SME trade finance totals $150 billion in developing markets, with $37 billion in low-income and least developed countries.


Trading Up will address key barriers faced by SMEs through three central components:
  • Catalytic Investment: On a best-efforts basis, the Sarona Trade Finance Fund will aim at raising CAD 150 million to invest in 10 trade finance intermediaries (TFIs) for onward investment in 5,000 SMEs across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Through a blended finance structure, the fund will use Global Affairs Canada catalytic $11 million contribution to crowd-in private capital into the fund.
  • Inclusive Technical Assistance: To augment the impact of the Sarona Trade Finance Fund, MEDA will extend technical assistance to influential private sector actors at multiple levels of the trade finance ecosystem. At one tier, TFIs will adopt gender equality, environment, social and governance and impact measurement and management practices that benefit SMEs. At a deeper tier, MEDA will partner with farmers associations to improve productivity, market linkages and wellbeing of women and men smallholder farmers.
  • Industry Relevant Research: There is little available evidence on the local economic impacts of trade finance. In response, UW-SEED will research the effects of trade finance and technical assistance on SMEs, employees, smallholder farmers and their households. Research will be disseminated to the blended finance, impact investment and development community to increase awareness and support for developing the SME trade finance ecosystem.



Program undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.