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EBRD, Sweden and Banca Intesa support women entrepreneurs in Serbia

By Bojana Vlajcic

  • New credit line makes financing for women entrepreneurs more accessible  
  • Additional advisory support for women-led SMEs funded by Sweden
  • Female empowerment and inclusion drives economic growth

Women-led businesses are to benefit from new financing opportunities provided by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Banca Intesa Belgrade in Serbia. A credit line of €5 million, which Sweden is backing with grants for technical assistance and advisory support, will boost investments by women entrepreneurs.

In the economies where the EBRD invests, including Serbia, women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are generally considered a more risky segment due to their small size and the fact that they tend to have less hard collateral.

Under the new credit line, women entrepreneurs will benefit from risk-sharing, which the EBRD will cover in the amount of up to 8 per cent of the loan amount. This will allow more women entrepreneurs, who would not otherwise be able to provide hard collateral, to apply for and obtain financing.

Aleksandra Vukosavljevic, EBRD Director, Financial Institutions, Western Balkans and Eastern Europe, said: “Creating equal opportunities for women in business is not only a gender issue, but is also critical for any country to progress towards its full economic potential. It is especially pertinent in the economies where the EBRD invests, where access to finance is often holding women back from running or growing their businesses.”

Banca Intesa Belgrade has been a long-standing partner of the EBRD and its work to improve access to finance for women entrepreneurs. The bank joined the EBRD’s Women in Business programme in 2015 and has to date extended over €33 million to finance more than 3,000 investments by women-led businesses, located largely outside Belgrade.

Darko Popović, President of the Executive Board of Banca Intesa Belgrade, said: “As the first bank in Serbia to join the EBRD’s Women in Business programme, I am delighted that Banca Intesa Belgrade will continue to support women entrepreneurs in Serbia, who make up over a quarter of our business community. To date, we have disbursed €33 million in loans to women entrepreneurs under this programme and offered favourable financing conditions, helping boost this critical segment and supporting the economic prosperity of the country as a whole. Using these funds, we have successfully aided more than 3,000 women-owned SMEs, as reflected in the Outstanding Women in Business award, which was presented to our client, Dragana Milanović, owner of the Roberto Baressi brand, by the EBRD.”

The financing for businesses run or owned by women is being provided by the EBRD’s Women in Business programme, which promotes women’s entrepreneurship and their participation in business more broadly by providing them with access to finance and know-how.

The EBRD rolled out the programme in the Western Balkans in 2014 and has since then supported more than 5,000 women-led firms. The programme will hold its regional conference in Podgorica on 21-21 June 2023 where participating financial institutions will also be awarded for their work and contribution to women empowerment in the region.

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