Sir Suma Chakrabarti, EBRD President
Launch of the Know How campaign to help small businesses
Linking economic growth and democratic societies
This is a very important day for the Small Business Support team and for the EBRD. The whole group is meeting up for the first time – bringing together team members from 25 countries. I am sure it will be a stimulating and interesting opportunity where you can meet your colleagues and share experiences from different backgrounds and cultures.
This is of course also the launch of the EBRD’s and your Know How campaign, where you will really start to demonstrate how your programmes can make an impact and how you have modernised the way the team operates.
The whole of the EBRD is being brought up to date with a modernisation programme that also includes better ways of measuring how our work makes a difference. The changes within the Small Business Support team are fully aligned with the overall objectives of the EBRD. And that’s why Know How, the main theme of your campaign, really appeals to me.
Know How is one important answer to the question raised in the Transition Report 2013 -- “Stuck in Transition?” Having knowledge and putting expertise to work - effectively Know How - are a crucial element in helping to move the transition process forward.
The importance of Know How to transition is seen in the link between economic growth and democratic societies. The contribution that your work makes to economic growth can have positive long term political results.
Another area where your Know How comes into play is in strengthening the economic institutions and sustainability of our work. For instance, over the past year you have worked intensively with HAMAG Invest in Croatia, the local SME agency, to enable it to take over the project work you are doing in the country.
I’d like to welcome Monika Šućur who is here to share HAMAG’s experience with you all. What’s very exciting is that there is a further opportunity for collaboration to take this work to the county level in Croatia, where there is a need for good mechanisms to enable SMEs to access the EU funds available for their development.
Another area where the Bank can move transition ahead through Know How is in increasing trade and international integration. In Central Asia you have focussed very successfully on helping companies export, including by training local consultants on export promotion, despite continuing political challenges. In other regions, Moldovan and Georgian enterprises are currently preparing for the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with the European Union. Other countries such as Morocco have made export promotion a top priority. This is an opportunity that I encourage all of you to take.
Of course, an important part of transition is ensuring that all of society is moving ahead – that opportunities for education and wealth generation are widely shared in the society. This means taking special measures, such as the women in business programmes, to assist women entrepreneurs to level the playing field when applying for loans alongside their male counterparts. Or working with unemployed young people to help them find opportunities as entrepreneurs, as you are doing with BG Kazakhstan in the Burlinskiy district of the country. These are important initiatives and they make a huge difference in people’s lives.
Innovation should be at the heart of all our activities at the EBRD. Here you have a role to play, in particular with respect to innovation, as part of the Small Business Initiative. Through the Knowledge Economy Initiative we will use innovation to assist our clients to develop their businesses. The Transition Report 2014 will have innovation as the main topic, focussing specifically on the enterprise level where innovation is essential for productivity, competitiveness and sustainable growth.
There are two important ways EBRD can help companies to innovate. First, is to support firms that already operate close to the technological frontier and that can develop new products and new technologies if they manage to invest in further research and development. We should help such firms to obtain their first loan or outside equity investment through bank products such as the Enterprise Development and Innovation Facility (EDIF) in the Western Balkans and the Venture Capital Investment Programme. Many of these companies will need your assistance to help them to grow, putting in place the structures and practices they need to succeed.
But the other, perhaps even more important, way the Bank can support innovation is in assisting the wide array of firms in more traditional industries that can reap large benefits from adopting existing technologies and adapting them to their own needs. Here you can play a crucial role to help these firms to move forwards by connecting firms that are eager to learn with existing Know How to help them to catch up and grow.
As ONE BANK we are not only working together but we are adding up our strengths and expertise to achieve more through a combined approach. The Small Business Initiative is such an example and it provides an excellent opportunity for SBS to develop a joint product with the FI Team for SME innovation. Smart funding of SMEs is about more than handing them a bag of money: it’s about combining finance with advice to achieve optimal impact on the ground and to make a real change. This combination of advice with financing is what SBI is all about and by engaging with local financial intermediaries we will be able to scale up this approach and reach more businesses.
Colleagues, over the years you have been doing a great job and your work is an important part of the EBRD’s mission. Today we commend you for your efforts and achievements.
Crucially, via the Know How campaign, you are now telling your story and going out to show what we as a Bank have to offer clients in the way of business advice and international expertise.
I am encouraged that you are putting more emphasis on communications and that you have moved into video and social media. It is important to get out the message about the benefits of our Know How. This video offers an excellent example and I hope that you will enjoy it. Thank you for your attention and have a successful workshop. Keep up the good work!