MSMEs: Key to an inclusive and sustainable recovery

MSMEs: Key to an inclusive and sustainable recovery
28 June 2021
14:00 - 16:30 hrs. CEST

The United Nations General Assembly designated 27 June as Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day (A/RES/71/279) in order to raise awareness of the contribution that small businesses make to sustainable, inclusive and resilient economic growth and, shared prosperity and decent work for all. Micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) account for 90% of businesses, 60-70% of employment, and 50% of GDP worldwide.

On MSME Day 2021, almost 18 months after the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, most countries will still be grappling with the pandemic and its severe health and socio-economic impacts, including lockdowns and the need to support those who have lost their jobs and livelihoods. In many parts of the world, the pandemic recovery efforts are being presented as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to “rebuild better”, particularly by prioritizing sustainability, resilience and inclusiveness.  This virtual MSME Day event will explore how to ensure MSMEs – the bedrock of our societies - are equipped to ensure a fast, equitable and sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery, empowered to drive the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and supported to spur innovation, creativity and decent work for all.

The global context

The COVID-19 crisis has taught us that the pandemic and containment measures do not impact everyone in the same way. Among the private sector, MSMEs, especially those led by women, youth, ethnic minorities and migrants, suffered the most. An International Trade Centre survey on COVID-19 impact among businesses in 136 countries has shown that nearly 62% of women-led small businesses have been strongly affected by the crisis, compared to just over half of firms led by men, and women-owned are 27% more likely not to survive the pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis also taught us the value and catalytic impact of digital connectivity, particularly for MSMEs.

As governments vaccinate their populations, the world continues to deal with several other challenges that include the ongoing effects of climate change, biodiversity lost, and pollution. If unabated, these three crises are expected to have severe negative implications for economic growth, human health and ecosystems, employment and livelihoods.   Much like the pandemic, we know that without concerted global actions, climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution are likely to disrupt growth, undermine food and nutrition security, and reinforce inequalities within and among countries. Among African MSMEs, only 27% of women-led firms reported investing in at least one measure to reduce exposure to environmental risks, while 45% of men-led firms had done the same, according to the SME Competitiveness Outlook 2021. Similarly, smaller and youth-led firms were less likely to make environmental investments compared with larger and adult-led firms. These smaller, women- and youth-led businesses have less capital at their disposal to invest in mitigating measures to prepare for external shocks like a pandemic or climate event.

In order to recover better, efforts and stimulus packages must target those most heavily affected by the pandemic and be aligned with the SDGs and Paris Agreement; supporting MSMEs, especially women, youth, migrants-owned, to be resilient to future shocks. We must seize the opportunity offered by the pandemic to address pre-existing biases and constraints faced by these women and men entrepreneurs and empower them to be the agent of change to achieve the SDGs. Focusing on stories from small business entrepreneurs, including women-led firms and ‘ecopreneurs’, this event will shed light on challenges they face, showcase solutions, and identify new approaches needed to ensure that MSMEs are change agents in driving a sustainable and inclusive recovery.


This MSME Day 2021 virtual event will focus on placing MSMEs at the centre of resilient, inclusive and sustainable recovery and growth. Achieving the SDGs, and an economy that is greener and fairer, requires resilient and flourishing MSMEs everywhere.

The event and social media campaign will feature small business entrepreneurs, including women and youth led firms and “ecopreneurs” alongside global leaders to address barriers, showcase best practices and identify big ideas with MSMEs at the centre of achieving the SDGs.


  1. Strengthen awareness and capacities of policymakers and micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises in achieving fairer, resilient and sustainable recovery that contributes to achieving the SDGs.
  2. Contribute to global debates on MSMEs in the post-pandemic recovery, including through environmental sustainability, and empowerment of youth, women, migrants and refugees.
  3. Create space for action, recommendations and practical tools that lead to more targeted policies and measures, including stimulus packages, supportive ecosystems and opportunities for MSMEs, especially women and youth owned MSMEs and sustainable MSMEs.

Target audiences

  • All countries
  • UN entities
  • Other international organizations
  • Business support organizations
  • Private sector representatives
  • Academic institutions

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Permanent Mission of the Argentine Republic, ITC, UNDESA, UNOP, UNIDO and ICSB

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