The Small Business Support team of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) officially launched its activities in Tunisia on 27 March 2014.
Since starting operations in the country in 2013, the EBRD has helped more than 70 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) access high-quality business advice and technical assistance. The work of the Small Business Support (SBS) team in Tunisia is funded by the European Union, which has provided €1.1 million to the programme, and by funding from the SEMED Multi-Donor Account and the SEMED cooperation funds account.
Accounting for more than 90 per cent of the private sector, SMEs are a fundamental part of the Tunisian economy. However, they continue to face challenges such as poor access to finance.
The EBRD seeks to promote the benefits of accessing well-designed business advisory services provided by local and international experts through various technical assistance programmes.
The SBS team connects SMEs with the expertise that can transform their businesses by transferring the tools, management skills and know-how that help them to innovate, increase efficiency and productivity, and attract financing.
Marie-Alexandra Veilleux, EBRD Head of Office in Tunisia, said: “The EBRD has built up significant expertise in developing and supporting the private sector and SMEs. Smaller businesses are the backbone of the Tunisian economy and their development is crucial for growth, job creation and economic inclusion. SBS programmes are complementary to EBRD financing tools; they play an important role in improving SME access to expertise and ultimately to finance.”
The Bank also focuses on developing the sustainability and quality of the consultancy sector in Tunisia through training courses, seminars and visibility events. Consultants and experts work closely with the SBS team to design initiatives and services that will boost the SME sector.
In addition to working with individual businesses, the EBRD also engages in policy dialogue with government agencies, local business associations and chambers of commerce to promote the role of investment and local consultancy services in small business development.
Since September 2012, when EBRD operations in Tunisia began, the Bank has invested €114 million across ten projects in the country.