Regional Small Business Programme (“RSBP”) aims to support the skills transfer to banks, non-bank microfinance institutions and other facilitators of MSME finance (EBRD Partner Institutions, or “PIs”). Since 2017 it has been operating in four Central Asian countries and, since 2018, in Mongolia (“Original Target Region” or “OTR”). The current economic problems in the OTR, triggered by low commodity prices and highly volatile remittances, have shown that there is a great need for MSME finance, which can support a real economy that is less affected by external shocks. Access to credit for MSMEs remains a key constraint, and, hence, supporting greater intermediation of finance to this segment remains a priority in the region. Despite EBRD’s work over 25 years in the OTR, there is still a need to continue strengthening PIs’ underwriting and monitoring capacity. This is especially the case today, as banks face more challenging operating environment. The purpose of the Technical Cooperation Programme is to improve, in a cost-effective manner, the PIs’ level of knowledge, primarily with regard to: a) sound credit analysis supported by modern MSME lending technology; b) non-credit banking services for MSMEs; and c) other relevant financing topics such as environmental and social aspects. Improved MSME lending technology will help PIs 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. Helping PIs lend to MSMEs through the implementation of robust MSME-lending technologies addresses current dysfunctionalities where viable and bankable MSMEs remain cut off from financial markets as banks are not properly equipped to analyse them correctly. Propagating a cash-flow based (not merely collateral-based) approach to MSME lending will enhance financial intermediation, contribute to a more diversified economy, strengthen the private sector and create sustainable growth. While most PIs offer some kind of training for staff in MSME lending and monitoring, the training is widely seen as lacking the systematic approach and depth that is necessary. Moreover, internal training programmes do not offer the exchange of experience across PIs, something the Programme will offer in seminars and online. Over time, the Programme will seek sustainability by partnering with domestic and regional stakeholders. Following the successful RSBP inception in Central Asia and Mongolia, it is now envisaged to include the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region into the RSBP’s coverage. Initially the RSBP in SEMED will cover Tunisia. The New Target Region (“NTR”), and particular Tunisia, share many features with the OTR: a) a shallow financial system with limited access to finance, especially for MSMEs and women entrepreneurs; b) a strong state dominance in the banking sector, with high NPL concentration and weak governance; c) a skills-mismatch among young graduates, including in the financial sector. The replication of the RSBP in Tunisia can be expected to successfully contribute to addressing these challenges. The Tunisia assignment will help assess the demand as well as the efficacy of programme delivery in SEMED broadly, following which the Programme may be rolled out to other SEMED countries.
The Project will comprise the following activities/ outputs:
(i) Development of a blended learning concept, innovatively combining in-person seminars and eLearning in one course, and training events using this concept;
(ii) Creation of an electronic knowledge sharing and exchange platform (“KSEP”), accessible by PIs, comprising electronic textbooks, a test module and an Electronic Library;
(iii) Electronic testing of PI staff (typically loan officers) after they will have worked through the electronic textbooks;
(iv) Preparation and delivery of 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;
(vi) At the request of EBRD, undertaking of on-site diagnostic checks of PIs, which shall include discussion with management and staff.
The Tunisia assignment will be implemented by IPC – Internationale Projekt Consult GmbH under the existing consultancy services contract with EBRD for RSBP implementation. Procurement and implementation modalities for further Programme expansion will be assessed in the future.
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