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 help improve the business environment for SMEs.
In 2014, we launched the Small Business Initiative, a strategic initiative integrating the tools we offer to support small enterprises.
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Financing through financial institutions
Through our network of more than 200 local financial institutions, we help hundreds of thousands of SMEs secure financing 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, which helps our local partner banks adapt the way they do business with small clients, creating sustainable impact for the long term.
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
We provide direct financing to those dynamic, fast-growing SMEs based in countries where we work that are underserved by the financial sector. 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.
Beyond finance, SMEs also require access to the right know-how in order 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 provides enterprises with the right tools to help take their business to the next level.
All of these efforts are complemented with policy dialogue activities to help 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 are working for business environments to exist, in all the countries where we work, in which SMEs can thrive.