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EBRD launches Western Balkans Women in Business programme

By Viktorija Melohina

  UniCredit Bank Banja Luka first to join new programme with €2 million loan
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has launched a Women in Business programme in the Western Balkans with a €2 million loan extended to UniCredit Bank Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Women in Business is a comprehensive programme designed to promote women’s entrepreneurship by helping women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access finance and know-how.
Under the new programme, the EBRD is extending up to €20 million for on-lending to women-led SMEs in the Western Balkans. The programme combines financing, technical assistance, risk mitigation strategies in the form of first-loss cover for local financial institutions and business advisory services to support women-led SMEs. The first-loss cover is funded by the EBRD Shareholder Special Fund, while technical assistance and advisory services are jointly funded by the governments of Luxembourg and Sweden.
The first loan under the Western Balkans Women in Business programme is a €2 million credit to  UniCredit Bank Banja Luka. This is also the first loan agreement between the EBRD and UniCredit Bank Banja Luka.
While the importance of women in the economy is generally acknowledged, women-led businesses still often face obstacles in obtaining credit and in developing their managerial skills. The programme is designed to address these obstacles from both a credit supply and a credit demand side.
Ian Brown, EBRD Head of Office, Bosnia and Herzegovina, said: “While we know that women play an important role in business, we believe that expanding their role is an important part of fulfilling the region’s economic potential. Our programme builds on successful examples, such as a similar programme in Turkey, and also on our recently completed three-year advisory programme for women entrepreneurs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia. We are very pleased that UniCredit Bank Banja Luka is now joining the EBRD in this effort.”
Dalibor Ćubela, Director at UniCredit Bank Banja Luka, said: “As a Bank that recognises the importance of women entrepreneurship in the economy, we are proud to be chosen by the EBRD as a partner bank in the Women in Business programme. Many local markets still do not offer equal opportunities for women and men in the business world. We want to contribute to creating conditions in which women entrepreneurs have equal opportunities. Within the project, our bank offers not only financial support, but also business consultancy services, as well as access to co-financing for consulting services through the EBRD’s Small Business Support team.”
The programme was launched with an event in Banja Luka hosted by the EBRD, UniCredit Bank Banja Luka and the governments of Luxemburg and Sweden. Ian Brown opened the ceremony, which was also attended by local business representatives and government officials.
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