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Call for proposals for Financial Intermediaries to identify and adapt/refine financial services and products to meet the needs of micro small and medium enterprises, specifically informal enterprises/entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone.
Procurement Process :CP-QB-FBS - Call for Proposal – Quality Based Fixed Budget
Deadline :03-Apr-23
Posted on :14-Mar-23
Reference Number :97605
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Non-UNDP Project
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Call for proposals for Financial Intermediaries to identify and adapt/refine financial services and products to meet the needs of micro small and medium enterprises, specifically informal enterprises/entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone
Overview :


Call for Proposals 

Title: Call for proposals for Financial Intermediaries to identify and adapt/refine financial services and products to meet the needs of micro small and medium enterprises, specifically informal enterprises/entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone.

Institution: Financial Intermerderies

Supervisor: UNDP Sustainable Local and Economic Development Cluster                                                                                                               Deadline: 3rd April 2023

Duration of the Activity: 4  weeks

Location: Sierra Leone                  


Timing and Contacts


Access to finance is an important element in supporting the growth and formalization of informal enterprises. It supports businesses to improve productivity, become more efficient and competitive and comply with regulations and laws, access new markets, and expand their operations, which can lead to increased profits and growth

Financial services in Sierra Leone are fragmented, small in scale and largely informal, characterised by volatility in individual and aggregate income levels. The financial market lacks depth and breadth in terms of reach and products offered to the clients and interest spreads and banking industry margins are high. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic and the current economic crisis due to the Russian aggression in Ukraine have affected entrepreneurs’ ability to meet loan repayments resulting in relatively high non-performing loans in some sectors. This coupled with the lack of knowledge, high unit costs and the perceived higher level of risks associated with MSMEs has affected financial intermediaries’ capital adequacy and profitability and further reduced their risk appetite to lend to the MSMEs and informal enterprises.

On the other hand, there is evidence that the financial intermediaries are interested in diversifying their portfolios, however, some of them lack sufficient management and technical capacity to design better-tailored made financial products adapted to the needs of specific sectors such as agriculture where a significant number of informal companies are operating. This will require a deliberate strategy to identify and adapt financial service products offer in terms of products, delivery models and management processes among others.

Given the low supply of financial services in the country, and the high demand for financial services from enterprises, financial intermediaries hold the leverage to influence business practices. Therefore, commercial banks, insurers, credit unions, microfinance institutions, community banks and Financial Services Associations are potential financial intermediaries for promoting the formalization of informal enterprises and improving access to finance in rural areas.

At the same time, supporting formalization has the potential to enhance financial institutions’ business performance: through a better performance of the MSMEs as well the risk and business management perspective. A formalised enterprise is more transparent and hence is a less risky borrower, which helps reduce operating costs and identify future earning opportunities more accurately. Financial institutions with a social agenda, or a double-bottom-line approach, can additionally enhance their social impact by promoting formalization

Therefore, there is a need to support the financial intermediaries to cushion their capacity to efficiently serve these under-serviced markets through improving their management and technical skills and managing innovative processes such as a partnership with Fintech firms, product development, partnerships with value chain actors to develop, pilot, roll out financial and non-financial services to reach these untapped markets in the informal economy.

UNDP and partners recognise the high demand for financial services among the informal actors for savings, credit, insurance, and digital services. However, the current products and services are either unaffordable, out of reach or not aligned with their needs.  On the other hand, financial intermediaries do recognize the need to provide alternative products and services that suit the needs of informal enterprises.

Financial intermediaries, placed at the core of economic activities, are recognized as crucial members of the MSMEs ecosystem. As such, they can play an important role in supporting enterprise development while benefitting from the resulting reduction of the financial risks associated with the MSME’s client portfolio and the competitive advantages of building better client knowledge and lasting relationships. Therefore, in addition, the ILO plans to establish partnerships with financial institutions aiming at promoting enterprise development by means of the provision of relevant business skills development, digital and financial literacy capacity building to the target groups of the project


UNDP, in collaboration with ILO, shall support financial intermediaries to identify and adopt existing financial products/services targeting informal enterprises/entrepreneurs, in order to incentivize formalization. Through this call, UNDP would like to strengthen the capacities of financial intermediaries to adapt innovative financial products and solutions that meet the financial needs of MSMEs, while fostering the way to formality. This may include technical assistance to support the product development process, marketing of the products, and management to ensure that appropriate products meet the needs of the market and provide pathways to the formality of their clients.

As such, UNDP in Sierra Leone is inviting financial intermediaries (commercial banks, insurers, credit unions,  microfinance institutions, Savings and Credit cooperatives, community banks, Financial Services Associations and insurance companies, to submit proposals describing their suggested products/services targeting informal enterprises/entrepreneurs. UNDP shall provide technical support in capacity building to up to 8 Financial Intermediaries in the country.

In addition, ILO will further support the identified financial institutions in piloting and rolling out the developed products and estimating the impacts achieved. 



The specific objectives of the call for proposals include: -

  1. Improve the capacity of financial intermediaries including banks, microfinance institutions, Savings and Credit cooperatives, community banks, and insurance companies, to provide appropriate financial products and services to informal enterprises and entrepreneurs.
  2. Promote access and usage of financial services for promoting the formalization of the economy and better responding to the financial needs of the private sector.,



This is a call for proposals (expression of interest) based on which UNDP will identify up to 8 proposals that will qualify for technical support.

Key areas for consideration for financial intermediaries for this call include: -

  1. Registered financial intermediaries including banks, microfinance institutions, Savings and Credit cooperatives,  community banks,  insurance companies, etc operating in the country for a minimum of three years.
  2. Feasibility of financial products /services to be refined and adapted to respond better to the market needs and promoting pathways to the formality of enterprises
  3. Institutional capacity to develop, implement and scale up the products
  4. Compliance to call requirement


UNDP will set up an evaluation committee to review all proposals received using UNDP’s principles of fairness and integrity. 

The following criteria will guide the selection process:

  • Company’s performance/track record and experience working with MSMEs and informal enterprises (30%)
  • Potential product scalability, catalytic effect, (30%)
  • Impact of the proposed financial product and its feasibility (40%)


The deadline for applications is 5:00pm on   Monday, 3rd April 2023. Applications received after the deadline will not be considered. Grant Proposals Submissions are to be made electronically in one file (pdf format) signed and scanned to the following email: Hard copies may be submitted to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at UNDP Reception Area, Fourah Bay Close, Off Main Motor Road, Wilberforce, Freetown, Sierra Leone.