EBRD supports youth entrepreneurship in the Western Balkans

By Stasha  Igrutinovic

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  • EBRD launches Youth in Business programme in the Western Balkans
  • €15 million to Banca Intesa Beograd and €500,000 to Mi-Bospo for on-lending to youth-led small firms
  • Programme targets gaps in access to financing and technical assistance

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has launched its Youth in Business programme in the Western Balkans by extending loans to Banca Intesa Beograd and microfinance institution Mi-Bospo at a formal event in Belgrade.

The Bank is providing Banca Intesa Beograd with a €15 million loan and Mi-Bospo with a €500,000 loan for on-lending to young entrepreneurs. The partner financial institutions will also benefit from technical assistance to better support and respond to the needs of their younger market segment.

The EBRD has committed to providing €100 million to financial institutions in the six Western Balkans economies over the next five years to support youth entrepreneurship. This latest financial package complements a €4.5 million loan extended to Kosovo’s Banka për Biznes in September this year.

Despite their potential for innovation, young entrepreneurs continue to face obstacles in accessing credit lines and expertise to grow their businesses. The programme aims to address these market gaps by providing a comprehensive package of financial and technical assistance for youth-led micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

In addition to finance, the programme engages with young business owners and managers, giving them access to tailored advisory services to help them develop new skills, improve business performance and unlock new growth opportunities. The advisory support is backed by the governments of Sweden, through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and Italy, through the Central European Initiative.

Facilitating other non-financial opportunities for youth, including mentoring, networking and access to educational resources, fills an underserved need in the marketplace and aims to build leadership capacity.

Francis Malige, Managing Director of the EBRD’s Financial Institutions Group, said: “We’re joining forces with our partner financial institutions to provide critical financing to young enterprises, so that they can invest in new technologies, strengthen their market position and realise their full potential. The Western Balkans is a region teeming with young talent and we’re thrilled to support the next generation of sustainable, resilient and impactful businesses.”

 “We are proud to be the first commercial bank in Serbia to bring the Youth in Business programme to the local market together with the EBRD, our long standing partner,” added Darko Popović, President of the Banca Intesa Beograd Executive Board. “The agreement signed today will boost our capacity to provide appropriate support to this strategically important, but also very delicate segment of the economy through easier access to finance and knowledge. Our contribution will help to create a stimulating environment for entrepreneurship, which is a key driver of employment and long-term economic progress.”

Safet Husic, Director of Mi-Bospo said: "Mi-Bospo is the oldest microcredit organisation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Our mission is threefold: supporting women's economic empowerment, developing entrepreneurship and protecting the environment. The Youth in Business programme supports this mission and we look forward to contributing to its successful rollout. The EBRD is one of our very important partners, with whom we have had a successful cooperation since 2007 through credit lines and technical assistance."

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