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Independent Evaluation of SMEPOL Project

This project to carry out an independent evaluation of the SMEPol project was commissioned by the Middle East and North Africa Office of the Canadian International Development Research Center (IDRC). RAPID had previously delivered a policy engagement training course for SMEPOL staff, so already had a good understanding of the project approach and context. The evaluation was carried out between August 2005 and March 2006, focusing on two key areas: replication and scoping in the region.

The SMEPol project, supported by IDRC, CIDA and the Government of Egypt (GoE), aims to support Egypt's transition towards a market economy, by assisting the GoE to improve the policy environment for small and medium enterprises development. Hosted by the Egyptian Ministry of Finance (MoF), it is doing this by supporting this ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Investment in the development of policies, legislation, regulations and procedures to further support MSME development. The 4 year project started in April 2000 and was extended in July 2004 to December 2005. After more than four years of activity, the project is considered by all partners as a success.

Clearly identifying and attributing a projects' influence on policy - and then drawing lessons - is rarely straightforward. Our approach to the study was based on the principle of triangulation and a set of specific individual methods were used, including project document reviews, composition analysis, literature reviews and interviews with a range of SMEPOL stakeholders as well as independent experts on the Middle East. This resulted in a range of data to support our conclusions and generate a comprehensive assessment of the evaluation questions. We believe our assessment of the SMEPOL project, key lessons and recommendations for future steps in Egypt is robust. We do stress that our assessment of the potential for replicability across countries in the Middle East is more preliminary - given the much wider focus (on 11 other countries) and the less intensive data collection.

The final report of the evaluation, intended to feed into the processes of programme development at IDRC, covers four main sets of issues. First, it provides an assessment of the SMEPOL project - what happened, what worked and why. Second, it highlights some lessons for replicability - setting the findings of the SMEPOL project within the context of the literature and practical experience in this area. Third, we make recommendations regarding how Canadian stakeholders might continue to work on policy development on MSME issues in Egypt. Fourth, we outline options for replicating SME policy development type interventions in other parts of the Middle East - based on an analysis of where the context conditions are favourable and the types of activities that donors might support in different contexts.