New programme to provide know-how and financial aid to Belarusian SMEs
Belarus became one of the first countries to launch the Women in Business programme implemented by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in the countries of the Eastern Partnership, which include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. The programme promotes women’s entrepreneurship and supports small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) led by women through access to finance and know-how solutions necessary for business growth.
The Women in Business programme in the Eastern Partnership countries is funded by the EBRD, the European Union, Sweden and the Early Transition Countries Fund.
The programme helps women-led SMEs access both the finance and the advice they need to grow, offering financing through local partner financial institutions, technical assistance for participating financial institutions and business advice for women entrepreneurs. The programme will also build on advisory services projects with mentoring and longer-term coaching to provide women entrepreneurs with the knowledge and confidence to take the next step. The EBRD will initially contribute US$ 55 million to create credit lines for on-lending to women-led businesses via local financial institutions in the Eastern Partnership countries.
Belinvestbank and Belarusky Narodny Bank expressed their interest in joining the programme as financial intermediaries. Jointly with the EBRD they will design dedicated banking products to promote sustainable lending to women-led enterprises.
During the launch event organised on 4 March 2016 in the context of the 1st Belarusian Entrepreneurship Week, Irina Kostevich, Deputy Economy Minister, said: “The development of small and medium-sized enterprises in Belarus is one of our top priorities. We are glad to see that the EBRD uses its international expertise to create opportunities for women in business, helping our female entrepreneurs to be more successful.”
The Government of Sweden allocated SEK 47 million (approx. EUR 5.2 million) for the implementation of the programme in the Eastern Partnership countries. Martin Aberg, Ambassador of Sweden to Belarus, said: "Supporting the development of women’s entrepreneurship has been identified as the engine for job creation and economic growth in the region. In Sweden women’s entrepreneurship is an important contributor to the national economy, and the number of companies run by women is growing at a faster pace than those run by men."
EUR 4.5 million has also been made available from the European Union Neighbourhood Investment Facility to finance the credit enhancement and part of the capacity building programme for partner financial institutions. EUR 0.9 million has also been provided by the EBRD’s Early Transition Countries Fund*.
The EBRD is currently implementing the Women in Business programme in 16 countries.
*The donors to the Early Transition Countries Fund are: Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taipei China and the United Kingdom.