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Vice President Kamala Harris, right, smiles as women speak to her about their businesses during a meeting with Guatemalan women entrepreneurs and innovators at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Monday, June 7, 2021, in Guatemala City. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Progress on Central America Forward

november 2023


In May 2021 Vice President Harris called on the private sector to draw on its unique resources and expertise to make commitments to support inclusive economic growth in northern Central America through a “Call to Action.”  To build on the momentum generated under the Call to Action, Vice President Harris launched “Central America Forward” in February 2023 in partnership with the Partnership for Central America, a 501(c)(3) organization.  Central America Forward supports inclusive economic growth while also emphasizing the importance of good governance, good jobs, reducing violence, and empowering women. Central America Forward reaffirms the broader goals of the U.S. Strategy to Address the Root Causes of Migration, which was launched by the Biden-Harris Administration in July 2021. 

Central America Forward has galvanized over $4.2 billion in commitments for Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras – and deployed over $1 billion to the region. Over 50 companies and organizations have joined this initiative and made investments in the region. These investments continue to create jobs, connect people to the digital economy, expand access to financing for small businesses, further empower women, provide workers with training and education, and improve local economic livelihoods. 

This public-private partnership is a collaboration between the U.S. government and the 501(c)(3) Partnership for Central America.

Key Highlights from Central America Forward Partners: 

Training and Education

Young latin woman in wheelchair working with computer at workplace or office in Mexico city

Millicom: The Conectadas digital inclusion and entrepreneurial skills program has trained more than 100,000 women in El Salvador, more than 50,000 women in Guatemala and more than 10,000 women in Honduras since its establishment in 2017. The program consists of several hybrid training modules for women to acquire basic digital literacy on social media and financial management. New modules were recently included in the program covering mobile digital tools. With the objective of making a broader impact on breaching the digital gender gap. Meanwhile, Maestr@s Conectad@s, a new digital platform focused on training education professionals to online teaching skills, emerged from the increasing prevalence of virtual learning as well as teaching during the pandemic. The program has trained nearly 55,000 teachers in northern Central America on topics related to digital classroom tools, use of social networks, educational innovation and neuroeducation. Both programs launched their web-based app in 2022 and are accessible for free at Millicom Tigo’s website.


Financial Inclusion

Payment transaction with smartphone

Mastercard: Mastercard is moving steadily toward its goal of bringing five million people in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras into the formal financial economy, and digitizing one million micro and small businesses. To achieve this, Mastercard partnered with GlobalPay Solutions to launch RocketPOS, a digital tool that has helped more than 6,000 majority women-owned micro businesses increase their sales by accepting digital payments, collecting service payments, and placing orders from suppliers in real-time. Additionally, their partnership with Central America-based financial groups will enable 15% of the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the region to accept digital payments, which will further increase access to the entire digital economy across northern Central America. 

Banco LAFISE:  LAFISE developed a new unit that caters to women-owned enterprises in partnership with USAID/Honduras. This new unit led to the creation of a $7 million fund through the DFC 2X Women’s Initiative. Through its evolving partnership with the U.S. government, LAFISE expects to reach 3,000 women entrepreneurs this year with financial services and has disbursed $7 million in credit to previously unbanked or underserved Hondurans.

Deetken: Deetken Impact raised over $16 million in partnership with USAID for financial inclusion and renewable energy investments to date and has several active deals in progress. Through tailored advisory services focused on investment readiness, development impact, and community engagement, projects are driving climate action, creating jobs, and fostering growth in the formal economy in El Salvador.

CrossBoundary: In collaboration with USAID, CrossBoundary provided investment facilitation and transaction advisory services to several small and medium enterprises in El Salvador. Support provided has included assistance in identifying viable investment opportunities, fundraising, responding to due diligence requests, and structuring transactions. To date, CrossBoundary has raised $6 million for technology-enabled businesses working with low-income populations, including a motorcycle financing financial technology company, a digital payment platform for small businesses, a digital insurance company providing auto insurance to low-income workers, and a company providing nano credits to low-income entrepreneurs.

In El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, only four in ten adults have a bank account.  Financial inclusion can help households build assets, allow small businesses to grow, and contribute to a sense of belonging in the community. Research shows that the chance of a family member migrating lowers dramatically among households that saved money formally in the previous year.  

Non-Traditional Jobs

A woman worker driving a backhoe to dig a hole in a construction site holding a walkie talkie.African American female engineer wearing a hard hat and vest.

Pantaleon: Pantaleon provides various trainings and opportunities for citizens in Guatemala and Nicaragua. Its initial $25 million investment towards the construction of Synergy Industrial Park is attracting investment and new business operations to Guatemala while promoting the training of employees. The company’s “School for Tractor Operators” trains women for jobs as tractor operators through technical instruction and empowerment-based programming.  It also invests over $1 million annually in other upskilling initiatives in communities surrounding its operations.   

Increased Production and Sourcing

hands on a loom with thread

Gap: Gap Inc. is on track to expand sourcing in Central America by $150 million by 2025 and works closely with suppliers to grow capacities in the region. The company’s growth in the region has enabled a local spinner to build 22,000 new spindles in Guatemala to increase regional yarn production, and Gap Inc.’s Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement (P.A.C.E.) women’s empowerment program has provided life and professional skills training to 2,000 women in Guatemala and Honduras since 2021.


Horizontal open portrait of a smiling Latina young woman looking at camera. Background of medicinal herbs and flowers. Taken in Merida, Venezuela. Concept of peoples and traditions. real people.

PriceSmart:  Through USAID’s Guatemalan Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (GEDI), PriceSmart, Inc and PriceSmart Foundation together contributed $300,000 to support the Central American Institute of Business Administration (INCAE) to empower 80 Guatemalan women-led, small and medium enterprises with tailored business management training and tools, connecting them to new markets, and helping them access financing. PriceSmart opened its newest membership warehouse club in San Miguel, El Salvador and a produce distribution center in Guatemala in May and July 2023, respectively, creating approximately 122 new jobs in total.  PriceSmart has announced the opening of two new clubs in Escuintla, Guatemala in late 2023 and in Santa Ana, El Salvador in Spring 2024. Together they are expected to create approximately 225 new jobs.

Heifer:  Heifer International, in partnership with USAID, awarded $625,000 to Red Global de Empresarios Indígenas to offer training, mentoring, branding, and marketing to high-potential enterprises led by indigenous people. To date, the project has strengthened the business capacities of 136 entrepreneurs to participate in higher-value, larger, and formal markets. In Honduras, Heifer has also committed to match a $4 million investment from USAID to increase productivity and incomes for 15,000 small and medium dairy farmers.

Alterna:  Alterna is partnering with USAID to support small and growing businesses (SGBs) by providing business and technical services, improving business-market intelligence, strategic-financial knowledge, digital and soft skills, and facilitating value chain connections and financing opportunities. Eighty-five SGBs have successfully completed the cultivation processes. In addition, eight companies participated to learn how to establish a solid financial foundation for their businesses and upon completion, the companies will have the opportunity to access repayable financing of up to $50,000 through Alterna’s Impact Investment Fund.

Argidius:  Argidius Foundation, in partnership with USAID through the Guatemala Entrepreneurship and Development Initiative (GEDI), is working with the organization Multiverse to foster a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem for youth by deploying three local chapters within Huehuetenango and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala and establishing a regional business center to facilitate access to business support services for entrepreneurs and foster linkages between distant communities and regional hubs. Argidius is also working with Earth University to increase access to their entrepreneurial support services by small mushroom, honey, and coffee businesses in rural communities in Quetzaltenango and San Marcos.

Pro Mujer: With the collaboration of local partners, NGO Pro Mujer brings direct finance and entrepreneurship support to vulnerable groups, including underserved women, their families, rural communities, and indigenous populations.

Thanks to the two loans Guatemalan artist Jennifer María Barrera received from Pro Mujer, she transitioned from selling her products to family and friends to opening her own shop.  At Arte Hecho con Manos de Amor, she sells handmade decorative items.  “Without Pro Mujer, I never would have had the funds to make this happen.  In Guatemala, accessing credit through traditional channels is complicated, but Pro Mujer made everything quick, simple, and easy,” shares Jennifer.  

Through Jenni Marexa Arévalo de Mata’s tutoring business Refuerzo Académico, she works with children needing support in reading and writing to give them tools to learn and improve their skills.  Thanks to her participation in Pro Mujer’s training courses, Jenni created a clear value proposition for her business, allowing her to attract new clients.  Jenni also used what she learned to start a new business selling crochet bathing suits.  This side hustle helps support her when business is slow at Refuerzo Académico.  

Wendy Sanchez runs the Flores del Boulevard flower shop in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  She came to Pro Mujer looking for guidance and support to expand her business and incorporate a new ”breakfast surprise” delivery service.  During the workshops, Wendy created a brand identity, launched e-commerce on social networks, and improved her business’ financial management.

Assistance to Smallholder Farmers

Happy farmers collecting Arabica coffee beans on the coffee tree

Cargill:  Cargill continues to expand reach to farmers with technical assistance, as well as children and community members with school meals. In Guatemala and Honduras, since making their commitment, programs with local NGOs have reached more than 18,000 children and more than 4,500 farmers. Cargill also partnered with USAID, Mastercard, and PriceSmart to support the Central American Institute of Business Administration (INCAE) to empower female entrepreneurs by providing them with business management training, tools, and mentoring, connecting them to new markets, and helping them access financing, creating a network of 80 women-led, small and medium enterprises.

JDE Peet’s, CoHonducafe, and Grupo Cadelga:  Collectively over the past year, coffee producers JDE Peet’s, CoHonducafe, and Grupo Cadelga have assisted 10,778 smallholder farmers in partnership with USAID, resulting in $78 million in new sales. This assistance includes the disbursement of $3.6 million in credit to smallholder producers.

Root Capital:  Root Capital, a nonprofit organization that provides financial services to small and growing agricultural businesses, has disbursed $4.7 million in loans to small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises in Honduras.


Two Latina co-workers in the office working together.

COATL: COATL has invested $46 million in a National Connectivity Network, within an integral technical, operational, legal and financial public-private cooperation model.  This allows the company to deploy telecom infrastructure and provide broadband connectivity and digital services, including in the rural areas of El Salvador, where the digital gap is concentrated.  COATL understands connectivity as a necessary condition to allow equal access to development opportunities for everyone. 

Technical Assistance and Financial Training

Mexican woman smiling at camera, mother working in regional clothing business

Grupo Bancolombia: Grupo Bancolombia is one of Latin America’s major financial institutions, with operations in El Salvador and Guatemala.  Its In-pactamos program provided technical assistance and mentorship to 113 businesses, 60% of which were women-led.  Similarly, its Elevate financial training program empowered over 400 small and medium enterprises (SMEs), half of which were run by women.  The company has granted $19.5 million in loans to SMEs, thereby helping transform ideas into successful businesses.  

With the support of Grupo Bancolombia, Andrea Zamora expanded her microenterprise Tienda el Pinalito, a business that sells basic agriculture products and grains.  “The personalized advice they gave me, including the tools, both financial and marketing, was incredible.  I have been able to apply it to my business now.  Without a doubt, it is a great program with useful information that is essential for business.”   

Kerime Manzur owns a 25-year-old business in El Salvador that sells technological items.  Kerime shared, “I did have knowledge, but I did not know how to apply it.  Thanks to my participation in this program, I was able to empower myself.  I was able to put into practice what I learned, including better financial management, to create a better future for my business.” 

The U.S. government and the Partnership for Central America welcome additional commitments to Central America Forward to promote economic opportunity in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.  Interested partners can reach out to the Partnership for Central America at

U.S. Department of State

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