Inclusive growth

We believe that promoting inclusive growth is important for building strong economies. EBRD programmes seek to promote equal opportunities by addressing underserved groups in the SME sector – such as female entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs based outside major cities or displaced by conflict. These programmes help fulfil the economic growth potential of the countries where we work.

Promoting women in business across the region

Securing finance is one of greatest challenges that women-led SMEs face. These businesses are often considered unappealing clients for banks because they are more likely to be small and based in the services, traditional or informal sectors. In addition, they often have limited access to information and/or face cultural biases that lead to weak application of property rights.

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The EBRD’s Women in Business programmes promote women’s entrepreneurship and participation in business. They enabling SMEs led by women to access the finance and know-how they need to grow. Women in Business programmes provide credit lines to local banks for dedicated on-lending to women-led SMEs, alongside business advice to help these enterprises become more competitive. We also offer training, mentoring and networking opportunities that enable businesswomen to share experiences and learn from their peers.

The first Women in Business programme was launched in Turkey in December 2014. At the end of 2016, programmes were active in 16 countries from Egypt to Kazakhstan. More than 25,000 female entrepreneurs have benefited from these programmes, which have provided €382 million in financing to 27 partner financial institutions. Furthermore, over 800 women have received training through our WiB workshops, honing skills such as leadership, digital marketing and corporate governance.

Under this programme the EBRD developed Business Lens, an online self-assessment tool for entrepreneurs to take a closer look at their businesses, identify areas of strength and weakness relative to their peers, and match themselves with the tools offered under the programme. By year-end 2016, 1,700 women had used Business Lens, and the tool is now available in all 16 participating countries.

Improving financial inclusion in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region

Small businesses in the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region often experience major constraints on their ability to grow. They frequently face difficulty in accessing risk capital, have limited financial literacy and experience, or suffer skill mismatches. Moreover, informality and a lack of financial data can prevent small businesses from being perceived as creditworthy.

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Through our SEMED MSME Financial Inclusion Programme, a large-scale programme launched in 2016, we provide credit lines, risk-sharing and technical assistance to partner financial institutions in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. The programme enables these institutions to provide appropriate finance supporting SME growth. The first investment under the programme was signed in 2016, extending 2 million Tunisian dinars to Microcred Tunisie, the first EBRD loan to this microfinance institution.

The programme combines finance with access to advisory services and know-how to help small businesses become more competitive. In 2016, we undertook 366 advisory projects in the SEMED region. And we are working with policy-makers and stakeholders in these four countries on legal and regulatory changes. This work includes areas such as reform of leasing and factoring legislation, of warehouse receipt systems and of credit-information reporting. These measures improve the wider business environment and increase the potential for small businesses to thrive.

Bolstering regional business development

Our extensive network, with offices in 35 countries and regional offices in Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Tunisia and Ukraine, ensures that we are present on the ground and really understand the challenges facing businesses based outside commercial hubs. In 2016, 59 per cent of our advisory projects were with enterprises located outside major cities.

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We also have a number of local development programmes in Kazakhstan, funded by private sector donors. These programmes provide business advice as well as training for prospective entrepreneurs through business clinics that explain how to start and manage a business. In 2016, we trained 107 entrepreneurs and 17 consultants in regional areas of the country, to help ensure that no business is left behind.

Supporting refugee-hosting communities

Support for the private sector and SMEs is a core element of the EBRD’s response to the recent refugee crisis arising from the civil war in Syria. Millions of displaced people are seeking to make their homes and livelihoods in Jordan and in Turkey. To help refugee-led enterprises integrate into the private sector, improve the economic resilience of the two countries, and the host communities that are most affected, we are providing direct and indirect finance, alongside access to business advice and training for local consultants.

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This work will strengthen enterprises in these areas as they continue to operate in challenging environments. The EBRD is also working with business groups and non-governmental organisations, in these regions, building their capacity to support SMEs.