Hello Tractor, an innovative small business whose founder hails from Ohio, received funding from USAID. The business provides services to farmers in Nigeria.

Photo courtesy of Hello Tractor

USAID is racking up big benefits around the globe when it comes to partnering with small businesses in the United States.

Once again, preliminary federal data indicate we have exceeded our worldwide ​goal for the fiscal year that ended in September, awarding $620 million in contracts to U.S. small businesses, the most ever in a single year for us and a high point on a five-year upward trend.

Small businesses received just over 13 percent of the contracts we awarded, an almost 2 percentage point increase over the last fiscal year when USAID’s percentage of small business contracts compared favorably—and even surpassed—similar-sized and larger U.S. government agencies.

But the figures only tell part of the story as the country is set to mark Small Business Saturday.

Working with U.S. small businesses means that farmers in Nigeria can now use their mobile phones to punch up Hello Tractor, whose founder grew up in Ohio. The service provides on-demand tractors—in the model of an Uber or a Lyft—so farmers who cannot afford to buy the expensive equipment can nonetheless harvest crops and earn a living. Tractor operators/drivers also benefit.

Then there’s Maryland-based A Joint Venture, whose architectural design work ensures Liberia’s university students—and next-generation leaders—have comfortable, modern classrooms for study.

Hello Tractor

Credit: State Dept./Doug Thompson

U.S.-based small businesses are also helping us find innovative solutions to irrigate crops in regions where water is scarce and combat illegal wildlife trafficking (find out more about the inspiring veteran who runs this business in this story). In fact, U.S. small businesses are a big part of the work we do in more than 80 countries today.

That wasn’t always the case, but we are changing.

When USAID was created 56 years ago, nearly 80 percent of the financial flows between us and the developing world were in the form of U.S. government dollars. Today, that figure is closer to 9 percent.

Charitable contributions and remittances from expats have taken up some of what U.S. taxpayer dollars formerly covered. But the real contributor in helping developing countries reach their potential is commerce and investment.

We’re partnering with these businesses in new ways, collaborating, co-financing and co-designing projects to have the biggest impact we can make to improve lives and livelihoods. And we are expanding our efforts in the United States and at our overseas missions.

USAID is proud of its role as the world’s leading humanitarian and development organization. But we know we can do more—and stretch taxpayer dollars—by embracing the entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation that small businesses provide.

We believe the purpose of development assistance is to end its need to exist. But we’re realistic; we can’t do it alone. We want smart ideas from new partners—including the world’s small business entrepreneurs—to help us meet our goals.

So while U.S. small businesses celebrate Small Business Saturday tomorrow with deals for shoppers, we’ll celebrate the work they do to boost the economies in their local communities and in communities around the world.