MOU Signing Ceremony for USAID’s Variable Payment Obligation (VPO) Program

Remarks by U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, Laura F. Dogu
Managua, April 7, 2016

It is a great pleasure to be here today for the signing of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) new initiative.  The objective is to accelerate entrepreneurship and catalyze private sector investment in businesses that are in their nascent stages.  This initiative is known as the Variable Payment Obligation Program.

As I’ve said in many speeches in recent months, the U.S. Embassy is focused on promoting a prosperous, safe, and democratic Nicaragua.  Through this initiative, we will work with Nicaraguans interested in uniting forces with us to improve their country’s economic prospects.  We will create alliances with the private sector to help entrepreneurs establish their business in a more efficient and fast way.  This program is also an indication of our commitment to help Nicaraguan women achieve economic prosperity through an innovative financial program for their growing small businesses.  We are committed to working with the private sector because they promote skilled workforce, sophisticated technologies, large quantities of resources, and access to markets, including world markets.

We believe that this is a winning formula to unite the strength and experience of the private sector with the energy, enthusiasm, and innovate capacity of entrepreneurs.  Entrepreneurship is one of the vital motors to drive economic growth, generate jobs, and stimulate innovation, with the goal of improving the lives of people.  At the global level, small and medium sized businesses contribute to generate approximately 66% of full time jobs and 86% of new jobs in the formal sector.  The U.S. government recognizes that Nicaraguan entrepreneurs are generators of economic growth and job creation.  But, there is a series of gaps that is limiting them in achieving their true potential.

I served as a judge in an entrepreneurship competition last week.  All of the small business owners in the competition said that they struggle to survive due to the lack of access to capital, talent retention, services for skills development, and more.  These problems cannot be approached in a unilateral way.  Therefore USAID is proud of this alliance with Enclude, Agora Partnerships, the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, the University of Santa Clara, and the Central American Bank of Nicaragua.

We are working together to support the growth of the entrepreneurs’ businesses with greater access to capital, services for skills development, and investment opportunities.  The Variable Payment Obligation Program will increase access to financing for growing small businesses and will focus initially on those small businesses that are owned by women.  Besides providing access to credit and skills development, this initiative will permit other investors and local banks to give loans to growing small businesses.

The focus that we are taking with this project is new.  Nicaragua is the first Central American country to be a beneficiary.  We hope that it will be such a big success here that it can be reproduced throughout the region and permit more businesses access to credit and to grow.

We thank our partners, Central American Bank, Enclude, Agora Partnerships, and the University of Santa Clara for their commitment to this program and applaud the initiative to support Nicaragua entrepreneurs and growing small businesses.  We call upon other members of the private sector to unite in this effort to work for the country’s economic prosperity, as these partners have done.  Together, united in alliance, we can create a more prosperous, safe, and democratic Nicaragua.

Thank you.

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