Micro, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs)

Can you create a procedure that helps business-formalization happen efficiently and cost-effectively?

Can you help SMEs access customized legal information and low-cost legal advice?

Have you devised an online legal services and/or dispute resolution platform that is effective, fast and affordable for SMEs?

Can you create equal opportunities for starting a business, meaning clear laws, government accountability, representation in the political process, effective anti-corruption mechanisms, and so on?

The 2018 HiiL Innovating Justice Challenge is looking for new and innovative solutions to justice issues faced by SMEs. The aim is not to uproot existing systems, but to complement and strengthen the existing systems to efficiently provide for the needs of SMEs.

Through our Justice Needs and Satisfaction (JNS) reports, we have discovered that most SMEs experience justice needs related to:

  • Lack of information: in Lebanon, almost a third of the people stated that they did not know where to look for information when they encountered a legal issue.
  • Dispute resolution: for SMEs, formal dispute resolution processes are often too burdensome (both financially and time-wise). Moreover, they often find themselves in a weak position vice versa their opponent, since they are less able to pay for legal advice and for professional representation.
  • Enabling environment for SMEs: this should include equal opportunities in accessing permits and licenses, in protecting intellectual property, in accessing credit and investments, and in accessing cheap and efficient legal processes.
  • Corruption and transparency: bribery and fraudulent behaviour from both potential business partners and from bureaucrats is a significant issue for SMEs. Effective anti-corruption mechanisms and contract enforcement means are needed to bring stability.
  • SME-worker empowerment: greater stability and empowerment is needed for SME employees in areas such as the enforcement of working contracts, the availability of information on labour rights, and the possibility of labour union formation.


How can these issues be solved? Check out these startups in our portfolio for inspiration:

  • DIYlaw – empowering SMEs by creating access to legal information and to simplified legal services (including business formalisation) in Nigeria.
  • mSME Garage – also provides access to legal services and information. Operates in Uganda.
  • EasyTender – creates an equal playing field for SMEs by enabling fair competition in public procurement.
  • Court on the Palm – increases transparency between government and business.
  • Sauti – empowers informal (women) traders through mobile-based trade and market information.


Want to know more? Check out our JNS reports for more country-specific information. In addition, check out some of the links below to get a general picture of the justice needs of SMEs: