EBRD partners with Banca Intesa Beograd to support women-led SMEs in Serbia

By Olga Rosca

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EBRD partners with Banca Intesa Beograd to support women-led SMEs in Serbia

€5 million loan under Women in Business programme
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is providing €5 million to Banca Intesa A.D. Beograd to support women entrepreneurs in Serbia.
The funds will be on-lent to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) managed by women from across the country under the newly launched Women in Business Programme focusing on the Western Balkans.
The EBRD loan to Banca Intesa is associated with a first loss risk cover which is funded with a grant from the EBRD’s own resources. The financing is combined with advisory services to women-led SMEs which are jointly funded by the governments of Sweden and Luxembourg. 
Henry Russell, Financial Institutions Director for the Western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus at the EBRD, said: “Women entrepreneurs in Serbia face challenges in accessing the finance and advice they need to grow their businesses. Therefore we are pleased to join with our long-standing partner Banca Intesa Beograd, in our efforts to support women in business. We welcome the bank’s commitment to expanding lending to women and we will also support it with technical assistance and advisory services.” 
Matteo Patrone, EBRD Director for Serbia, said: “This project addresses two important objectives of the EBRD in Serbia, as highlighted in our country strategy: supporting the private sector and bridging the entrepreneurship gender gap by expanding the access to finance for women-led businesses. We are delighted to have Banca Intesa Beograd on board and we are encouraging other local banks to join our efforts.”
“Female entrepreneurship is one of the most under-utilised resources of economic growth, not only in Serbia, but in Europe as well, which is why it is the task of all stakeholders to support its development. As the leading creditor of the domestic economy Banca Intesa is actively engaged in women’s economic empowerment as evidenced by the fact that we were among the first banks in the Serbian market to devise tailored credit for women entrepreneurs. The agreement with our long-time partner, the EBRD, is additional confirmation of our commitment to helping improve conditions for the development of female business and entrepreneurship in general, which is the key to raising employment and long-term economic growth,” said Draginja Djuric, president of Banca Intesa Executive Board.
Banca Intesa Beograd, Serbia’s largest bank, is the first lender in Serbia to join the programme which is dedicated to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
Under this programme, which includes financing, technical assistance for participating financial institutions, business advice for women entrepreneurs and a risk-sharing mechanism, the EBRD is planning to contribute €20 million to create credit lines for on-lending to women-led businesses via local banks throughout the region.
The government of Sweden has made available a further SEK 33 million (equivalent to approximately €3.6 million) for institutional capacity-building to assist local banks in the region to develop financial products that meet the specific needs of women-led enterprises; and provide women-led enterprises with the know-how they need to grow and develop their businesses. Further donor funding totalling €1.5 million has also been made available for the programme by Luxembourg. €2 million is provided by the EBRD Shareholder Special Fund for the risk-sharing mechanism.
The programme is also building on advisory services projects with mentoring and longer-term coaching to provide women entrepreneurs with the knowledge and confidence to take the next step.
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