Small Business Economics

, Volume 53, Issue 3, pp 753–770 | Cite as

The impact of business-support services on firm performance: a meta-analysis

  • Túlio A. CravoEmail author
  • Caio Piza


Interventions designed to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are popular among policy makers, given the role SMEs play in job creation around the world. Significant resources from governments and international organizations are directed to business-support interventions in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) based on the assumption that market failures and institutional constraints impede SME growth. SME business-support interventions in LMICs most often relate to formalization, business environment, exports, clusters, training, technical assistance, access to credit, and innovation. This paper reviews and summarizes 40 rigorous evaluations of SME-support services in LMICs and presents evidence to inform policy debates pertaining to SMEs and business-support services. We present evidence that business-support interventions improve firm performance and create jobs. However, little is known about which interventions work best for SMEs and why. More rigorous impact evaluations are needed to fill the knowledge gap in the field.


SMEs Impact evaluation Private sector development Firm performance 

JEL classification

J21 J48 O10 L26 



We thank Linnet Taylor, Anastasia de Santos, Vincenzo Salvucci, Paulo Jacinto, Lauro Gonzalez, Ana Cristina Sierra, Samer Abdenour, Fabio Ono, Miriam Bruhn, and Caroline Schimanski for their comments. We also thank participants in the USAID Microlinks seminar “Show Me the Data: Evidence & Experience on SMEs,” the participants of the seminar “Business-Support Programs for SMEs—Do They Work: A Study of Impacts and Outcomes Across Programs? promoted T&C GP Event at the World Bank. Excellent research assistance was provided by Ana Cristina Sierra, Isabel Musse, and Isabela Furtado.

Funding information

Financial support from 3ie is gratefully acknowledged.

Supplementary material

11187_2018_65_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (283 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 282 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Labor Markets Division (SCL/LMK)Inter-American Development BankWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Impact Evaluation Unit (DIME)World Bank GroupWashingtonUSA

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