EBRD, EU and government boost funding for Albanian agribusiness, tourism SMEs

By Svitlana  Pyrkalo
@pyrkalo

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  • EBRD agrees a risk-sharing facility of up to €20 million with ProCredit Bank
  • EU and government to provide a 10 per cent grant under the Albania Agribusiness and Tourism Support Facility
  • Project signed during the EBRD President’s visit to Albania

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), ProCredit Bank Albania, the European Union (EU) and the government of Albania are stepping up their support for companies in the country’s agribusiness and tourism sectors under the Albania Agribusiness and Tourism Support Facility (AATSF).

The EBRD has committed to a risk-sharing facility of up to €20 million to ProCredit Bank Albania, which will provide loans to eligible firms in the agribusiness and tourism sectors.

The new package of support for the Albanian agribusiness and tourism sectors was signed during EBRD President Odile Renaud-Basso’s first visit to Albania. The signing took place in presence of the Governor of the Bank of Albania, Gent Sejko.

The AATSF is a framework aimed at improving access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in partnership with a number of commercial banks in Albania. The framework includes a 10 per cent investment grant for sub-borrowers in the agribusiness and tourism sectors, funded by the government of Albania and the EU. Borrowers will receive the grant retroactively once their investments have been completed and verified. The facility will also benefit from a government-backed, first-loss risk-cover mechanism.

ProCredit Bank Albania signed its first agreement with the EBRD, for €30 million, under the Albania Agribusiness Support Facility (AASF), as it was known then, in July 2016. A leader in financing the agribusiness sector, with the EBRD’s support, it will now be able to lend an additional €20 million under the blended finance facility, for a total of €50 million.

During the signing ceremony, Frida Krifca, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said: “Agriculture is one of the most important sectors to the economic development of Albania. We believe that production and processing facilities now have adequate space and potential to grow, with the right access to loans and financing to boost their production capacities and employment and add value to the economy.”

Mirela Kumbaro, Minister of Tourism and Environment, said: “Small, medium and big investors have re-invented the way they do business, with a greater focus on the agritourist industry and geographical expansion, not only near the coast and in the mountains, but in the developing areas of river, forest and culinary tourism. This signing is, therefore, an important event, as ProCredit joins the two other banks in the programme. Tourism is, without doubt, the future of Albania.”

Ekaterina Solovova, the EBRD’s Head of Albania, said: “The AATSF, with the support of the government of Albania and the EU, has been addressing the finance gap in the sector since 2016. The new EBRD risk-sharing package also supports the green economy transition, by helping ProCredit Bank Albania finance higher-performance, energy-efficient technologies in those sectors.”

Mirsad Haliti and Diamant Ibrahimi, Members of the Management Board of ProCredit Bank Albania, added: “We are pleased to enhance further our cooperation with the EBRD in pursuing the objectives of our development-oriented bank. We are thankful to the government of Albania and the EU for supporting the project.”

Up to €180 million has been allocated to date under the AATSF for specialised credit lines and risk-sharing facilities through local partner banks. Since its launch in 2016, more than €70 million in loans have been committed, benefiting more than 6,100 local agribusiness SMEs. More recently, the facility was extended to include tourism SMEs. The AATSF complements the EU’s Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance for Rural Development (IPARD).

In addition to financing instruments, the EBRD is providing technical assistance to both financial institutions and sub-borrowers through its Advice for Small Businesses programme in Albania.

The EBRD is a leading institutional investor in Albania, focusing on the sustainable development of the private sector, building on the strong entrepreneurial spirit in the economy, enhancing the commercialisation of infrastructure projects, and promoting sustainable energy and environmentally sound investments. To date, the Bank has invested €1.8 billion in 125 projects across the country.

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