Regional Small Business Programme (the “RSBP”, the “Programme”) aims to support the skills transfer to banks, non-bank microfinance institutions and other facilitators of MSME finance (“PFIs”). Since 2017 it has been very successfully operating in four Central Asian countries, since 2018 in Mongolia and since 2020 in Tunisia (together the “Target Region” or “TR”).
The huge disruptions inflicted on MSME in the TR due to Covid-19-related restrictions and lockdowns have very significantly thrown back small business sector of the economy, while overall job creation after the inevitable pandemic-related recession will be even more pressing than had previously been the case in the TR. “Building back better” will require additional efforts to provide access to MSME finance based on robust analysis of businesses rather than on – often non-existent or illiquid – collateral. Hence, supporting greater intermediation of finance to this segment becomes an even bigger priority in the TR.
The purpose of the TC Project (“TC”) is to further improve, in a cost-effective and safe – socially distanced – manner, the PFIs’ level of knowledge, primarily with regard to: a) sound credit analysis supported by modern MSME lending technology; b) non-credit banking services for MSMEs; c) problem loan identification and work-out best practices (which will be of particular relevance in the post-pandemic-environment) and d) other relevant financing topics such as environmental and social aspects. Improved MSME lending technology will help PFIs disburse loans to clients which are deemed creditworthy based on their cash flows rather than collateral. This should improve and broaden access to finance for MSMEs. Better non-credit banking services will contribute to a broader definition of access to finance – “financial inclusion”, which entails money transfer for inter-regional and cross-border transactions, guarantees, deposits/cash management – financial services increasingly sophisticated MSME rely on. Smart bad loan work-out practices will help well-intended and generally viable entrepreneurs to reset their businesses and to get a second chance after the pandemic.
Over the past 12 months the Programme, which had already been in high demand prior to 2020, received another huge boost in demand due to Covid-19 as its original concept had already put an emphasis on on-line learning which allowed the RSBP, unlike other TC-programmes, to switch instantaneously from “largely remote” to “100% remote” when lockdowns struck across the TR. Moreover, staff in front-line capacities could not perform their ordinary duties during “hard” lockdowns, using their time instead for training under the RSBP, often encouraged by their employers. At the same time the RSBP launched training specifically addressing questions related to the fall-out from Covid-19 and related public health measures like lockdowns, which proved highly relevant for the PFI-staff. Such increased demand in the RSBP training triggered by Covid-19 is likely to remain in place at least until the TR moves back to normality.
The Project will comprise the following activities and objectives:
(i) Further expansion of the existing blended learning concept, innovatively combining live seminars (classroom or online) and eLearning in one course, and training events using this concept.
(ii) Further expansion of the existing electronic knowledge sharing and exchange platform (“KSEP”), with access for PFIs located in the TRs, comprising at least sixteen online courses in each of the three regions and their respective languages of instruction, Central Asia, Mongolia, and Tunisia, a test module and an ‘Electronic Library’ (“EL”).
(iii) Electronic testing of PFI staff (typically loan officers) after they will have worked through the online courses.
(iv) Preparation and delivery of live seminars on specialised, cutting-edge subjects where interaction with trainers and other trainees is particularly beneficial.
(v) Substantial population of the Electronic Library in the form of original articles and/ or reports on MSME lending and related topics. These articles and reports may be on issues like “Developing your loan portfolio in times of stress”, “Relationship banking over the business cycle” or “Which loan products do MSME in the TR really need to address their financing needs?”
(vi) At the request of the EBRD, undertaking of on-site diagnostic checks of PFIs, which shall include discussion with management and staff. Such visits will help the Consultant assess the situation of MSME lending in specific PFIs and, at the same time, further deepen the Consultant’s understanding of the main challenges in MSME lending in the PFIs in the TR, which can then be addressed through the KSEP.
Further information regarding the EBRD’s approach to measuring transition impact is available here.
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