Strengthening the business environment

We understand that SMEs face complex challenges. For this reason, in addition to direct assistance for small businesses, we cooperate with policy-makers, local stakeholders, international financial institutions and the wider donor community as we work together to improve the business environment for SMEs. These activities are tailored to the needs of each country and seek to bring international best practice to our region.

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Enhancing access to finance: factoring, leasing and listing

Improving access to finance for SMEs goes hand-in-hand with clear, targeted policy interventions. The EBRD helps create an investor-friendly, transparent and predictable legal environment in transition countries. Programme activities may include policy dialogue, legal assessment, and technical cooperation with the country’s authorities.

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With significant expertise in financial-sector law reform, we provide expert legal advice to regulators. We help them develop well-defined regulatory frameworks for non-bank financing instruments, such as leasing and factoring, that complement traditional financial instruments, and are often better suited to the financing needs of SMEs. Last year, we completed the reform of leasing and factoring legal frameworks in Montenegro. The Parliament of Montenegro adopted the new Factoring and Leasing Laws on the 25th of October 2017, which will create the environment for the development of factoring and leasing activities, and should ultimately facilitate and improve SMEs’ access to finance. We are currently working with the governments of FYR Macedonia, Kosovo, Georgia, Mongolia and Tunisia to further improve legislation in this area.

And, for those businesses that are ready to take the next step, we are also supporting the creation of specialised platforms for public listing of SMEs and the conversion of exchanges into company financing hubs. In 2017, a feasibility study for the creation of a regional SME Growth Market at the Zagreb Stock Exchange was finalised and implementation started. The new SME Growth Market called Progress will be fully operative in 2018 covering Croatia and Slovenia. We will be supporting this initiative further by providing tailored pre-listing advisory support to eligible enterprises.

Improving access to public procurement opportunities

We also support governments in their efforts to encourage SMEs to participate in electronic public tenders.

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Since February 2015 we have supported electronic bidding for low-value contracts on Prozorro in Ukraine, prozorro.gov.ua, and we are currently piloting new innovative and business-friendly electronic bidding solutions in Moldova via mtender.gov.md and in Tunisia via www.tuneps.tn. In Moldova, since November 2016, the pilot of electronic bidding on MTender has attracted 110 contracting entities and more than 450 local businesses. In Tunisia, the TUNEPS system started operation on 1 March 2017 and by the end of the year almost 1,000 local SMEs all over Tunisia were registered and trained to participate in online bidding.

Foreign currency risk mitigation to strengthen financial intermediation

The SME Local Currency Programme also has a strong policy component. It works to address the over-reliance on foreign exchange finance that affects many of our countries of operations.

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In 2017, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Morocco and Serbia signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the EBRD, enabling them to benefit from the programme in future. These MOUs include detailed plans for capital market reforms and specify the actions required of stakeholders. In total, 12 countries have now signed such MOUs with the Bank.

Building capacity

We also support business organisations, improving their capacity to assist their SME members and strengthen the wider infrastructure for SME support in the countries where we work.

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In 2017, we have scaled up our activities in this area and have launched capacity building initiatives to strengthen institutional capacity of business membership organisations in Mongolia, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Developing local consultancy markets

By promoting the development local consultancy markets, we are helping to ensure long-term, sustainable access to high-quality business advice for SMEs.

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We have a suite of bespoke training courses for local consultants, including our training series, “Grow Your Consulting Business”, and specialised training on topics such as energy efficiency and export promotion. From 2013-2017 over 2,600 local consultants have been trained.

And the results speak for themselves: 93% of the participants have used tools, techniques and skills from the course, with the majority of respondents (55%) introducing significant changes to their company as a result. 88% of the course participants have seen noticeable positive changes in their company (e.g. 42% have introduced new services, 34% increased number of new clients, 17% increased annual turnover).

Advocacy

As a major investor in our countries of operations, the EBRD plays an important advocacy role in promoting SME development and articulating the needs of small business.

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We also take the lead in some of the major platforms coordinating donor activity in SME development across our region, such as the Western Balkans Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF) and the EU4Businesses Initiative in the Eastern Partnership countries, and have been a key contributor to the G20 countries’ B20 taskforce on SME growth.