Encouraging enterprise

In developing countries, the Netherlands supports local startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that want to grow. We also help Dutch companies to do business internationally, boosting local economies and sustainable trade with their innovative solutions.

Thanks to Dutch efforts, the number of companies with a supported plan to invest or trade in low- and middle-income countries more than doubled in 2016. Of the total of 5,650 companies, 836 are Dutch companies and more than 4,800 are local or other enterprises. Also, the number of direct jobs supported by private sector development programmes increased to 217.000 in 2016, up from 191.000 in 2015.

Sustainable enterprise

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Image: PUM Netherlands senior experts

Corporate social responsibility is the norm, both in the Netherlands and in international business. Responsible business practice means everyone wins: partners in the South, consumers and companies themselves. Companies that operate on the basis of corporate social responsibility can guarantee that the products they sell have been produced in a fair and environmentally friendly way. And they are receptive to the wishes of their customers, who are often quite critical.

International business

A lot of Dutch companies are active internationally. They include major companies like Philips, Unilever and Heineken, and also numerous smaller companies. Yet only a small proportion of Dutch businesses trade with or invest in low and middle-income countries, even though their expertise would help these countries enormously in tackling the challenges they face.

Developing countries are increasingly seeking economic collaboration with Dutch companies. More and more companies are responding, and launching international operations.

We help Dutch companies engage in international enterprise and devise innovative solutions to boost local economies and sustainable trade. And we encourage and support public-private partnerships between companies, civil society organisations and public authorities to create jobs and stimulate enterprise.

Investing in women

The Dutch programme focuses a lot of attention on young entrepreneurs and businesswomen, as well as businesses in fragile states. There is growing international awareness that, in order for inclusive growth and development to progress, women must have equal economic opportunities. Investing in women makes economic sense. Women’s economic independence is also an important aspect of Dutch policy on women’s rights and gender equality.

Factsheet Support for small businesses

Download our complete factsheet: Support for small businesses - Encouraging enterprise.

More information

Do you have questions or would you like to have some more information? Contact the Sustainable Economic Development Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.