The EBRD is launching its Women in Business programme in Georgia to drive women’s entrepreneurship.
In Georgia the women I have met are entrepreneurial and enthusiastic, with strong business acumen. Why then is the EBRD launching a programme for Women in Business in the country this year?
Women entrepreneurs there face many of the same challenges as women across the countries where the EBRD invests, most notably constraints in accessing the finance and the know-how they need to grow their businesses.
The EBRD Women in Business Programme addresses these issues. It is a regional programme that will cover Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, made possible thanks to donor funding from Sweden, the European Union’s Neighbourhood Investment Facility and the EBRD’s Early Transition Countries Fund.
We will work closely with selected local banks to provide targeted financing products, responding to the needs of women-led businesses, which tend to be smaller than their male counterparts and operate in lower value-added sectors.
It is not just a question of promoting equality but also a question of economics. The EBRD helps local banks adapt their products to better serve their women clients and begin to seize the opportunity arising from the worldwide, multi-billion dollar women’s banking market.
We help banks understand that enterprises run or owned by women represent a great business opportunity and are a commercial sector with huge potential. International experience shows that women have fewer non-performing loans, are more likely to access multiple products from one bank and in general show a high degree of loyalty.
We also work with women-led businesses directly, providing advisory services, mentoring, networking and training in core entrepreneurial skills to help their businesses grow. We believe that giving women entrepreneurs the skills they need to become more credit-worthy will help overcome the misconception that lending to women is risky, especially as evidence shows that women entrepreneurs are more risk-averse than men.
Over the course of 2015, we expect to realise these programmes in 16 countries – leading to more successful women in business in Georgia, the region and beyond.
Charlotte Ruhe is Director, EBRD Small Business Support