A vibrant small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector is a vital ingredient for a healthy market economy. At the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), we believe that for small businesses to reach their full potential, they need access to the right finance and know-how to enable them to improve their competitiveness and grow, alongside targeted policy actions to improve the business environment for SMEs.

In 2014, we launched the Small Business Initiative, a strategic initiative that provides a tool box of flexible instruments that are combined into integrated products to help SMEs innovate and grow.

The five pillars of the Small Business Initiative

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Financing through financing institutions

Financing to SMEs through our network of more than 200 local financial institutions reaches hundreds of thousands of SMEs every year. Much of this financing is dedicated to specific underserved SME groups, such as women entrepreneurs, or to promote specific priorities, like trade, competitiveness or innovation. Technical assistance often accompanies these programmes to help our local partner banks adapt the way they do business with small clients for the long term, creating a sustainable impact.

Co-financing with financial institutions

We also work with local financial institutions co-financing and sharing the risk of lending to small businesses. This mechanism enables our partner banks to reach more SMEs and lend larger amounts more efficiently. We also provide technical assistance here, adapting and improving partner banks’ practices and approach to SME lending.

Direct financing for small businesses

For those dynamic, fast-growing SMEs in the countries where we work that are underserved by the financial sector, we also provide financing directly. In addition to tailoring this finance to their needs, we help strengthen client companies as they implement the investment, providing advisory assistance to promote good corporate governance, financial management and other standards.

Business advice

Beyond finance, SMEs also need access to the right know-how to improve their internal operations, innovate effectively and expand. We help SMEs work with local consultants and international industry advisers to receive business advice in a wide range of areas. From quality certification to strategy, marketing, financial management or energy efficiency, this expertise equips enterprises to take their business to the next step.

Policy dialogue

All these efforts are complemented with policy dialogue activities to strengthen the business environment for SMEs. From promoting alternative financing options, like leasing and factoring, to helping governments adapt their procurement activities for SMEs and building capacity in business intermediary organisations, we’re working to create a business environment in which SMEs can thrive.

Our donors

Partnership with donors is vital to delivering sustainable impact to the SME sector in the countries where we work.

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It enables us to provide the right business advice along with financing and allows us to engage with regions and segments of the SME sector where we would otherwise not be able to operate effectively. More than that however, this strong partnership with donors sets high standards for impact and efficiency, prompts innovation and helps ensure coherence and additionality in our activities across regions.