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Over 200 firms in North Macedonia improve competitiveness with EBRD and EU support

By Bojana Vlajcic

  • €51 million extended to more than 200 small businesses in North Macedonia through programme funded by the EBRD and EU
  • Businesses received EU-funded grant incentives of up to 15 per cent of the loan amount
  • The EBRD and donors continue to support local SMEs

More than 200 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in North Macedonia have successfully implemented investment projects and become more competitive thanks to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) SME Competitiveness and the European Union (EU)-supported SME Competitiveness Programme.

The programme, which started in 2019, combines EBRD loans and EU-funded grant incentives which are on-lent to small businesses in partnership with local commercial banks. A total of €51 million in loans was extended to small businesses in North Macedonia for 316 investment projects. The majority of these investments were in manufacturing, transport, retail and services, and food industries, and more than 60 per cent of them were for SMEs located outside the capital city.

SMEs were able to apply for funds to invest in new equipment and upgrades to help them boost their productivity, cut operational costs, increase energy efficiency and improve their alignment with EU standards. In addition to loans, SMEs benefited from grant incentives funded by the EU and worth up to 15 per cent of the total loan amount.

Improved access to finance has helped SMEs to go beyond their usual operations and invest in becoming more competitive in local and EU markets.

One company that benefited from the programme is Rio Coffee, a coffee-producer and retailer based in Skopje.

The EBRD and the EU, through local partner NLB Bank, extended financing to Rio Cafe to purchase a new processing line, including a coffee-roasting machine, storage silos that allowed it to expand its storage of ground coffee, a vertical coffee-packaging machine, metal detector and labelling machine.

“The new equipment is more energy efficient and minimises waste,” said Executive Director of Rio Coffee, Kiril Andonovski. “We have increased productivity. Moreover, the new equipment allows us to further develop our products, which we may extend to some new markets.”

Another beneficiary is oil producer Kristal 1923 from Veles. The company took out a loan of €250,000 from one of the EBRD’s local partner banks, Sparkasse Bank Makedonija, and bought a new peeling machine, purification equipment and burner. This investment led to more efficient, more reliable and greener production.

It allowed the company to reduce its energy consumption by 13 per cent as well as cut costs and lower CO2 emissions.

The EBRD’s SME Competitiveness Programme has been implemented in all Western Balkans countries, with the aim of helping them improve access to finance for local SMEs. So far, more than 850 businesses have benefited from the regional programme.

The EBRD is one of the leading institutional investors in North Macedonia. To date, it has invested more than €2.5 billion in various sectors of the economy, with a major focus on private-sector development.

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