Africa, Asia and Latin America

Trading Up

2017 - 2024

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



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 supporting them to offer stable employment and develop supply chains served by small-scale enterprises.


Trading Up is an innovative 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. This will improve the economic wellbeing of SMEs, employees, and small farmers.


This project is investing in 10 Trade Finance Intermediaries (TFIs) that provide financing to 5,000 SMEs, which 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 lower-income economies are achieving significant economic advancement, growth is uneven and the benefits are not realized by all. The World Bank reports that there are significant income and livelihood gaps across low and middle-income countries. These disparities are made worse for women and youth who face barriers based on their gender and age. According to the United Nations, 1.3 billion people live in poverty with over 50% of the populations of middle-income countries, such as Nigeria, Laos, and the Philippines, living in poverty.


SMEs play a significant role in boosting trade, 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 in vulnerable positions
  • Smooth cash flows 
  • 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 countries.


Trading Up will address key barriers that SMEs face through three components:

  • Catalytic Investment: On a best-efforts basis, the Sarona Trade Finance Fund will strive to raise 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 an innovative finance structure, the fund will use Global Affairs Canada’s catalytic $11 million contribution to crowd-in private capital into the fund.
  • Inclusive Technical Assistance: To increase 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 shared with the blended finance, impact investment, and development community to increase awareness and support for developing the SME trade finance ecosystem.


This program was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.