The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with Germany through KfW Development Bank, hosted over 70 Small to Medium-Sized Enterprizes, Cooperatives, and Startups at the 2024 Business Development Forum. The primary objective of this event was to offer networking and capacity-building opportunities that catalyzes business growth and prosperity in Lebanon. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple crises had a severe impact on the country, its economy, and its business climate. The collapse of the banking sector and the devaluation of the Lebanese currency caused a reduction of purchasing power and reduced the scope of investments and business development. In response to the multi-layered political, economic, and financial crises, UNDP leveraged ongoing programmatic platforms to support the stabilization of the micro-business environment and respond to their growing socio-economic needs. UNDP's livelihood project aimed at stabilizing and growing MSMEs, startups, farmers, and cooperatives wi th grants and capacity-building initiatives, and enhancing creativity and innovation to foster job creation in the longer term. With the Business Development Forum, UNDP brought together cooperatives, SMEs, startups, and representatives from relevant ministries, business development experts, and export academy professionals. Together, they worked towards addressing the challenges faced by SMEs and cooperatives, while providing valuable insights on a range of pertinent topics. The Forum began with welcoming words from UNDP and KfW Development Bank, followed by testimonies from entrepreneurs and cooperative members who shared their progress, support received, lessons learned, and ongoing challenges. Key thematic discussions centered on strategic support programs for sustainable economic recovery, access to new markets, food safety requirements, and the process for obtaining industrial licenses. A moderated discussion and Q and A session provided a platform for knowledge sharing and lessons learned, followed b y networking opportunities, an exhibition, and one-on-one meetings. Dr. Solveig Buhl, KfW Director in Beirut, expressed her gratitude stating, 'I am personally very grateful and proud that the German government, through KfW, is supporting ýinitiatives like this, initiatives that catalyze prosperity and economic development in Lebanon.' 'SMEs are the backbone of the economy in Lebanon', she went on to say, 'and this is why Germany is supporting, in partnership with UNDP, such initiatives. In ýfact, more than 11 million USD were made available to support the stabilization and the growth of ýbusinesses and cooperatives since 2019.' Dr. Buhl further elaborated, '468 medium and small enterprises, 169 ýcooperatives, and 2628 farmers benefited from the provision of equipment, tools to reduce the ýcost of productioný, and technical training to help their growth and development in the longer termý.' She concluded by thanking all the participants, emphasizing the vital role of state institutions in the operation an d growth of SMEs and cooperatives, 'I'm so happy that today there are also representatives from various ministries and from the chambers of ýcommerce. We have to work together for the betterment of our country." Dr. Denise Sumpf, UNDP Local Development and Local Governance Portfolio Manager said in her opening remarks, 'For the past four years, UNDP, in partnership with Germany through KfW Development Bank, has prioritized supporting MSMEs, startups, cooperatives, and farmers with capacity-building, financial, and in-kind support. These interventions help entities and individuals to initially sustain their operations and retain employees, with the goal of eventually expanding and growing their businesses.' She continued, 'During these uncertain times and as we work together towards a sustainable economic recovery in Lebanon, UNDP will continue its commitment to supporting MSMEs, innovative startups, and cooperatives.' Addressing the participating entities, Ms. Sumpf concluded by saying, 'ýI encourage you t o leverage this platform to expand your networks and markets, ýto learn from each other, and continue to build with insights from experts from ýthe Ministries of Economy and Trade, Agriculture, and Industry.ý' The forum served as a dynamic platform, placing SME businesses at the center of collaborative discussions involving key stakeholders to foster business development through interaction and dialogue. National news agency - Lebanon