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EBRD and Societe Generale promote financial inclusion in Serbia

By Viktorija Melohina

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New guarantee facility to support lending to rural micro entrepreneurs
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is joining forces with Societe Generale Banka Srbija a.d. to boost financial inclusion in Serbia with a guarantee facility for a project of up to 2.3 billion Serbian dinars (approximately €20 million) to support local micro entrepreneurs.
Under the project, the EBRD is strengthening the partnership between Societe Generale Srbija and Agroinvest fond doo. The funding extended by Societe Generale Srbija will be supported by an EBRD-provided guarantee of up to 1.15 billion dinars (approximately €10 million) to endorse lending to micro entrepreneurs in rural areas of Serbia.
The facility is expected to expand access to financial services to micro enterprises that are largely excluded or under-served, and support micro enterprises in rural areas or in the least economically developed regions of Serbia. According to the World Bank, the lack of access to financial services in Serbia’s rural areas remains significant, with only 55 per cent of the population having bank accounts compared with 72 per cent in urban areas.
The EBRD, USAID and the World Bank are also supporting the government in its plans to introduce a law regulating the microfinance market through policy dialogue, advice and the sharing of expertise.
“We’re pleased to develop a strong portfolio benefiting rural micro entrepreneurs with Societe Generale, one of the major banks in Serbia. By supporting under-served regions we hope to expand consistent, reliable and professional financial services to micro entrepreneurs who so far have been excluded from these opportunities,” said Henry Russell, EBRD Director for Financial Institutions for the Western Balkans, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine.
“This is an important project for the EBRD in Serbia as it has wider resonance in terms of the overall development of the financial sector in the country and it fosters growth by facilitating access to finance for small entrepreneurs, who are the backbone of the Serbian economy,” added EBRD Director for Serbia, Matteo Patrone.
Stanislas Tertrais, EB Vice President, Societe Generale Srbija, explained: “With a third of the population without access to bank services, Serbia has a huge need and potential for financing small and micro entrepreneurs and businesses. With that in mind, Societe Generale Srbija started its activity aiming to reach those of the population who do not have bank accounts and offer them access to financial support and banking services. To date, Societe Generale Srbija has over 26,000 clients and granted loans totalling over €28 million, used mainly for agricultural activities, start-ups and the improvement of small businesses, craft industries and services. Within the framework of this project, Societe Generale Srbija is able to support more than 10,000 clients per year with the long-term goal of helping these people develop their businesses so as to become everyday bank users.”
Since the start of its operations in Serbia, the EBRD has invested more than €3.8 billion in 188 projects across the country. The Bank invests in the financial sector, industry, commerce, agribusiness, energy and infrastructure.
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