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EBRD Youth in Business programme launches in Albania

By Joel Cela

  • Union Bank to receive €1 million to on-lend to SMEs owned or led by entrepreneurs under 35
  • Sweden, Italy and Luxembourg have provided funds to support capacity building, business advice and training for young entrepreneurs
  • Albania becomes fifth Western Balkans country to benefit from the programme, after Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is launching its Youth in Business Programme in Albania. It will support the financial inclusion of young entrepreneurs by helping them overcome barriers to accessing finance and providing advisory services.

Union Bank will receive a €1 million loan for on-lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) owned or managed by entrepreneurs under the age of 35. The project will also build Union Bank’s capacity to better understand and cater to this group of businesses, helping the bank establish its own unique business model for engaging with young entrepreneurs.

Young entrepreneurs will gain access to finance and overcome the barriers created by insufficient collateral, limited credit history and lack of business experience. They will benefit from capacity-building activities including advice on digitalising business processes, training in digital solutions and tools, and building customised digital road maps. In this way, the programme aims to empower young businesspeople and demonstrate that youth-run SMEs can be a bankable segment when offered financial and non-financial products tailored to their needs.

Ekaterina Solovova, EBRD Head of Albania, said: “We are proud to launch our Youth in Business programme in Albania, reaffirming our support to the country. This is a great opportunity to empower young entrepreneurs, who are such a crucial part of Albania’s present and, most importantly, future. We believe that by introducing a unique business model and providing a product that is tailored to their needs, young entrepreneurs will thrive and embark on a path that will lead to a more financially inclusive and prosperous tomorrow.”

Union Bank is a long-time client of the EBRD, which was a shareholder in the bank from 2008 to 2021.

The Chief Executive Officer of Union Bank, Flutura Veipi, added: “We are thrilled to be collaborating with the EBRD in support of young entrepreneurs. Youth is a priority segment for Union Bank and we strive to offer young people attractive banking services that serve their distinct needs. We are convinced that the banking sector has a crucial role to play in the development of young entrepreneurs, and we are committed to doing our part by providing tailor-made financial services. In addition, we aim to address the challenges young businesspeople face in our financial advisory capacity and support their future development by providing non-financial services, thus having a positive impact on the economy in which we operate.”

Financing for the programme in the form of technical cooperation funds has been provided by the governments of Sweden, Italy via the Central European Initiative and Luxembourg via the EBRD Small Business Impact Fund. These funds will support Union Bank’s capacity building and advisory services and training for young people running SMEs.

The EBRD’s Western Balkans Youth in Business Programme expects to provide a total of €100 million to local banks in the region over the coming years. In addition to finance, the Bank will provide advisory services in the form of consultancy projects, e-learning and training, all with a view to fostering youth entrepreneurship and financial inclusion.

The loan to Union Bank makes Albania the fifth country in the Western Balkans to join the Youth in Business Programme. Kosovo was the first to become part of the programme, later joined by Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Similar credit lines have already been successfully rolled out in Egypt.

A leading institutional investor in Albania, the EBRD has invested €2 billion in over 140 projects in the country to date.

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