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EBRD and EU promote continuous learning in Central Asia

By Nina Tsintsadze

Training improves small businesses’ access to finance

For Tatyana Kozlova, there is no better feeling than to see the fruits of her labour. This loan officer from, Stepnogorsk a small town in Kazakhstan bursts with pride when her clients succeed and feels happy to have contributed to their success.

Tatyana’s story is one with humble beginnings. She joined KMF, the largest microfinance organisation in Kazakhstan, as a cashier. Since then, Tatyana has been on the up and up, first being promoted to the administration department, and recently becoming a loan officer. Hard work, commitment and a learning programme supported by the EBRD and the European Union (EU) have helped her settle into her new position.

Launched in 2018, the online platform of the Regional Small Business Programme (RSBP) provides professionals in financial institutions with expertise, know-how and best practices in the field of finance for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

“It is a great pleasure to witness the growing popularity of this training programme in Kazakhstan: to date, more than 2,000 financiers have already participated in the programme. Digital courses provide up-to-date and comprehensive content that caters most efficiently to the needs of local businesses,” says Agris Preimanis, Head of the EBRD in Kazakhstan.

Among Tatyana’s clients are a street vendor who developed his business into a small shop, and a local restaurant that increased its seating capacity, but there are dozens more each year, she notes.

In addition to its presence in Kazakhstan, the RSBP for Central Asia is up and running in the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and is funded by the EU in all four countries. 

“We are very proud to finance the RSBP platform. An ever-changing world requires lifelong education and online learning can be a very efficient tool in this process, especially under restrictions related to Covid-19. I believe that prosperity throughout Central Asia depends on the vitality of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and digital access to know-how in the field of MSME finance is indispensable in this regard,” says Johannes Stenbaek Madsen, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Kazakhstan.

The RSBP offers participants certification courses and programmes. Learners can acquire new skills through online courses or webinars and refresh their knowledge by attending online lectures. The topics range from micro-lending basics to risk management and more. 

‘’Learning brings additional energy and enthusiasm to work. This programme is useful both for newcomers to boost their confidence and for seasoned professionals to refresh their knowledge,’’ says Daniyar Nurshubayev from Center Credit, a top commercial bank in Kazakhstan. When the RSBP started in the country, Nurshubayev had been supervising around 25 MSME credit officers in eight branches of the bank.

The platform’s flexibility is essential for learners. Online courses are accessible 24/7 and designed for participants to study independently, allowing them to plan the time and place that best suits their individual training needs and to choose the most convenient pace. These factors are very important for Tatyana and all other busy professionals.

‘’When I took my first certification programme, I would stay in during weekends, fully absorbed in my studies,’’ recalls Tatyana, ’’but it was well worth it. The knowledge from the training eased my day-to-day tasks and made my workflow quick and efficient.’’

Equally important were courses in soft skills such as how to communicate better with clients. Forging lasting connections with customers has become even more vital against the backdrop of economic difficulties stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

To date, close to 10,000 financiers have already benefited from the programme in Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The programme is also available in Mongolia.

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