EBRD and EU mark 500th small business project in Egypt

By Nibal Zgheib

EBRD and EU mark 500th small business project in Egypt

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Union (EU) are celebrating a landmark achievement, the conclusion of the 500th advisory project for small businesses in Egypt under the Bank’s Advice for Small Business Programme funded by the EU.

The support of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) is an integral part of the impact the EBRD’s work is having in Egypt by playing an important role in strengthening economic resilience.

To mark this achievement, the EBRD hosted an event in Cairo which was attended by the Chargé d'Affaires a.i. of the EU Delegation to Egypt, Mr Reinhold Brender; and many business representatives and international donors.

Offering support to small businesses is a key priority for the EBRD and the EU as they represent the backbone of the economy in Egypt. Financing and consultancy services have been provided to many enterprises in cooperation with partner banks and micro-finance institutions under the umbrella of the EBRD’s Small Business Initiative. In addition to financing, the Bank also provides business advice through local and international experts to help MSMEs become catalysts for growth in the local and regional economies.

Janet Heckman, EBRD Managing Director for the southern and eastern Mediterranean and Director for Egypt, said:We are very happy about this achievement. SMEs are a priority for the EBRD in Egypt as they are the largest job creators in the country. Up to 90 per cent of all employment opportunities come from this part of the economy and this is especially important to reduce youth unemployment. Many small businesses are also run by women and support for these enterprises is crucial.”

Claudio Viezzoli, EBRD Managing Director for SME Finance and Development said: “We are proud to provide expertise, knowledge and funding to vital Egyptian businesses. Finance alone is not enough for the growth of this sector - through our business advice, we are helping transform the performance of thousands of small businesses leading to sustainable and inclusive growth in markets across the country and the region.”

Reinhold Brender, Chargé d'Affaires a.i. of the EU Delegation to Egypt noted: "Support for the private sector, and in particular to MSMEs, is one of the EU’s key priorities to promote economic development for inclusive growth and job creation in the Southern Neighbourhood South. The EBRD’s Advice for Small Business Programme forms part of the wider EU Initiative for Financial Inclusion. We are very satisfied with the EBRD's involvement in this initiative and count on the Bank to continue the joint implementation with the EU as well as the other European financial institutions EIB, AFD and KfW.”

The partnership between the EU and Egypt is founded on the Association Agreement signed in 2004.

The EBRD’s Advice for Small Business programme offers diversified market experiences through working with local and international consultants who have expertise and knowledge in the field of innovation and attracting financing opportunities as well as high track records in turning the younger generations into business entrepreneurs.

One year after completion of an advisory project, we evaluate our projects to assess the impact the advice has had on the enterprise – and those results are strong.  Most of our assisted enterprises have reported an increase in annual turnover by an average of 61percent. In addition more than 50 per cent of assisted enterprises since 2012 have reported an increase in number of employees, thus creating more than 3,000 new jobs.

The EBRD has invested over €2.3 billion in Egypt through 43 projects since the start of its activities in the country at the end of 2012. The Bank’s areas of investment include the financial sector, agribusiness, manufacturing and services, as well as infrastructure projects such as power, municipal water and wastewater services and support to transport services.