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Small businesses (SMEs)

Donor support for small businesses

The partnership with our donors is key to our success and helps us to keep our work relevant. The experience of donors, together with the demand for high-quality delivery and innovation, drives us to improve continuously. Over the past two decades we have built up strong and productive relationships with our donors who continue funding our programmes time and again. Since the launch of the Initiative, over €600 million has been raised from donors, helping to make our SME development activities possible and ensuring SMEs across our countries of operations can thrive and grow.

Our financing and advisory activities are tailored to the specific needs of each SME we work with. Our efforts are coordinated carefully with other stakeholders to maximise impact and to complement, rather than duplicate, their efforts.

Donors are vital partners in all aspects of our work and we recognise their contribution every step of the way – from the material we present to potential SME and partner bank clients and consultants, the presentations we make to stakeholders, and to the media that showcases our stories. Our donors are invited to participate in regular steering committees, public events and visits to clients and stakeholders: providing an additional platform for local engagement.

Management for results

After more than 30,000 projects with SMEs, our track record speaks for itself. We have used this experience to continually improve the way we operate. At the EBRD, we work to the highest standards of integrity. Before each project begins, we perform thorough integrity checks and due diligence on our clients. In addition, our monitoring and evaluation procedures are well tested. We are very clear from the outset about the results we expect, and monitor closely whether we are on track to deliver them throughout the project cycle.

Through regular updates and donor reports we keep donors informed about our operations, and we are always available to answer questions or provide updates.

We then compare those results across countries and regions, benchmarking projects against industry trends and market developments. This keeps us responsive to changing needs in each market and also means that we can take knowledge gained in one context and see whether it could apply elsewhere. We take the time to learn our lessons – turning success into best practice is part of what makes our programmes effective.


We want results that last and markets that thrive. We look beyond the lifespan of a single activity and design projects to produce changes that will last independently of the EBRD. Our goal is to develop a robust private sector of dynamic businesses that innovate, access know-how and financing as needed, and continue to prosper and grow.

Part of this goal is to develop a local market for business advice and consulting for SMEs to turn to. By gradually reducing the subsidies we offer, and encouraging higher client contributions to projects over time, we support the move toward a self-sustaining, competitive market for advisory services, which is independent of donors.

We also provide trainings to staff at our local partner banks and FIs, from financial modelling, to developing new, innovative financial products. This ensures the right skills and know-how accompany our financing: building resilience and self-sufficiency in the financial sector going forward.

In addition, close collaboration with stakeholders, such as chambers of commerce and Investment Councils, helps create a lasting support infrastructure, improving the overall business environment for SMEs. In more developed markets, we can be even more ambitious, engaging with governments so that they can take over what we do once we’re gone.

Value for money

We recognise our responsibility to ensure that the donor funds with which we are entrusted generate the greatest possible impact and practice sound financial management. Over the past few years we have increasingly encouraged clients to share in the cost of projects. To date, almost half of our project costs are covered by the clients themselves. Altogether, our clients contribute over €7 million each year, making our funding go further. This means we can reach more businesses than under more traditional development approaches.

Small Business Impact Fund

In 2015, the Bank established the Small Business Impact Fund (SBIF) to support the Small Business Initiative with a more streamlined and effective architecture for donor funds. The SBIF is bringing together donor funds and directing them to financing, advisory and policy dialogue activities to support small and medium-sized enterprises in the EBRDs countries of operations. By pooling donor resources under one umbrella, the SBIF is an effective, efficient and flexible instrument that allows for a more targeted allocation of resources and maximises the impact of individual contributions.

With generous contributions from our donors, we have been able to design innovative and fully operational programmes that bring to the market a range of instruments and activities. These contributions cover a wide range of regions and products, including the EBRDs flagship Women in Business programme, the Blue Ribbon programme, the Risk Sharing Framework, the Star Venture programme and others. The Fund has raised over €51 million in donor support, which has had a tangible impact on our SME clients:

  • 22 SME support programmes have been launched and implemented across our countries of operations, combining provision of finance, business advice and policy reform interventions.
  • €183 million of EBRD SME financing has been deployed to date thanks to its resources.
  • 1,116 SMEs received the EBRD's expert advisory services and of those which have been evaluated so far, 81% increased their turnover, with over 7000 jobs created.
  • Almost 20,000 businesses were reached through direct, co-financed, or indirect financing.

With more data collection and evaluation in the coming years, a fuller impact picture will begin to take shape as the fund matures.

The donors contributing are: ItalyJapan, KoreaLuxembourgNorwaySwedenSwitzerland, the TaiwanBusiness – EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund, and the USA.


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Our work with SMEs