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EBRD helps unlock SME potential in Kazakhstan

By Dana  Yeskendirova

New campaign on value of external advice for SMEs launched in Almaty
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is raising awareness about the value of external advice for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) at an event held today in Kazakhstan’s largest financial centre, the city of Almaty.
The forum entitled “Barriers to business: unlocking the entrepreneurial spirit” brought together leading Kazakhstani entrepreneurs and business representatives to recommend ways to improve the investment climate in Kazakhstan, including addressing the existing challenges of access to finance and know-how, and to discuss the role of SMEs in achieving sustainable economic growth. The discussion was moderated by the Financial Times reporter Jack Farchy.
“It is clear from our experience here that there is a strong entrepreneurial spirit in Kazakhstan,” said Janet Heckman, EBRD Director for Kazakhstan. “The country has come a long way over the past few decades, but there remains much to be done to foster the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises and the private sector as a whole.”
SME representatives had a unique opportunity to share their experience on how advisory services, supported by the EBRD, had enabled them to improve their performance and become more competitive, domestically and abroad.
“These are challenging times for businesses in Central Asia and smaller enterprises are particularly vulnerable. Business advice can help develop a wide range of areas, from export strategy to quality management, marketing, human resources or energy efficiency,” commented Charlotte Ruhe, EBRD Director, Small Business Support.
The EBRD has launched an information campaign in Kazakhstan on the value of external advice for businesses.
“Businesses are often unaware of the benefits that consulting and external advice can bring,” said Ms Ruhe. “It is very important that small and medium-sized enterprises realise that this opportunity exists and that the EBRD can assist them to access it on a cost-sharing basis. We are also delighted to announce the continuation of a third phase of our programme with women and young entrepreneurs in Western Kazakhstan, with €250,000 of renewed funding from BG Kazakhstan.”
The latest funding by BG Kazakhstan brings their total contribution to €661,000.
 Zarina Bakenova, Vice President, Policy and Corporate Affairs, BG Kazakhstan, said “Supporting our local communities and developing entrepreneurship amongst young people and women in the Burlinskiy district of Western Kazakhstan is a significant part of BG Kazakhstan’s social investment portfolio. We are very pleased with the results we have seen in this cooperation with the EBRD to date and look forward to continuing our joint work with the Small Business Support team in 2015 and onwards.”
The EBRD, through its Small Business Support team, has helped more than 1,200 small and medium-sized enterprises in Kazakhstan to date to access the advice they need to grow their businesses. The government of Kazakhstan is a core donor to these activities, alongside the United States, BG Kazakhstan and the EBRD Shareholder Special Fund.
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