EBRD, EU and Montenegro enhance SMEs’ access to business advice and information services

By Cecilia Calatrava

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  • EBRD, EU and Montenegro to facilitate SMEs’ access to expert advisory services
  • Aim is to build small businesses competitiveness and resilience
  • Joint initiative supports  access to information services via a web portal

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is joining forces with the European Union (EU) and Montenegro’s Ministry of Economic Development to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Montenegro with their access to know-how in order to develop their competitiveness.

The €1.75 million-project with the title “Supporting Entrepreneurship through Advisory Services and Information Services for SMEs” is co-funded by the EU and the Government of Montenegro  through the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) and implemented by the EBRD in partnership with Montenegro’s Ministry of Economic Development which is the beneficiary of the project. The €1.4 million euro funding is provided by the EU (IPA) and the Government of Montenegro, while the remaining is SME client contribution and EBRD.

More than 100 SMEs joined online to attend the launch event held in Podgorica.

Jaap Sprey, Head of EBRD Office in Montenegro said: “The coronavirus has exposed the vulnerabilities of small businesses and tested their resilience like never before. Helping SMEs access know-how that addresses their immediate business needs and strengthens their operations has never been a bigger priority for private sector development. Our partnership with the European Union and Montenegro’s Ministry of Economic Development is committed to advancing the conditions that encourage SMEs to innovate, scale-up and drive their ambitious agendas forward.

Jakov Milatovic, Minister of Economic Development, Government of Montenegro said: „In Montenegro, 99% of all companies are micro, small and medium enterprises, which obliges us to pay more attention to this sector, but also resources. Therefore, a significant part of our efforts is focused on the long-term sustainable planning and implementation of structural reforms, which will contribute to the creation of a favourable environment for business development. Through the Instrument for Pre-Accession Support IPA 2014 - 2020, the European Union has invested over 8 million euros to strengthen competitiveness and innovation in Montenegro. In the coming period, it is planned to contract over 4 million euros under IPA 2020 support, which will, among other things, be aimed at strengthening the competitiveness of the private sector in order to improve the business environment, focusing on developing women's entrepreneurship and innovative enterprises, as well as providing tangible support in the competitive sectors defined by the Smart Specialization Strategy 2019 - 2024. In this regard, in a number of projects implemented by the Ministry of Economic Development through the national IPA 2014-2020, today's project stands out as extremely important for our department and in that sense our commitment and expectations are great.”

Audrone Urbonaviciute, Deputy Head of Cooperation sector at the EU delegation in Montenegro said: “In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for Montenegro to tackle long-term goals to increase the competitiveness of the economy. There is a lot of potential for inclusive and sustainable economic growth, which is why it is essential to support the private sector and SMEs. Our joint action will enable Montenegrin SMEs to improve their competitiveness, efficiency, export capacity and easier access to finance. It will also strengthen the Ministry’s efforts and their ongoing SME support programmes. The EU will continue to provide continuous support to private sector development, SMEs and entrepreneurs.”

The initiative consists of two components. On the one hand, it aims to harness the opportunities of consulting and advisory to advance an enabling environment for entrepreneurship. SMEs are important contributors to jobs and value-added and have a fundamental role to play in fostering a sustainable and resilient economy in Montenegro.

The Bank’s Advice for Small Businesses Team will leverage its extensive network of international advisers and local consultants to design projects around SMEs’ needs with a view towards improving their productivity in a wide range of business areas, including digitalisation and digital transformation, financial management, environmental protection and others.

On the other hand, under the Investment Climate and Governance Initiative, we will focus on strengthening the capacity of the Ministry of Economic Development to better serve SMEs through policy development and enhancing SME support programmes, whereas the project also aims to set up a digital one stop shop web portal that will have all relevant information for SMEs and enable them to apply online for incentives.

Since the start of its Advice for Small Businesses programme in Montenegro, the Bank has helped over 700 SMEs transform their business and improve operations with the advice from local and international experts, thanks to the donor support, amongst whom an important partner is European Union through the Western Balkan Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (WB EDIF). 

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