Home Finance EBRD and donors support 5,000 women-led businesses in the Western Balkans

EBRD and donors support 5,000 women-led businesses in the Western Balkans

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  • 65 million euros in loans granted to women-led businesses in the Western Balkans

  • Financial and advisory support helped women entrepreneurs boost their businesses

  • Initiative supported by donor funds from Sweden, Luxembourg and Italy

Since 2014, around 5,000 women-led businesses in the Western Balkans have received financial and advisory support from the EBRD and donors, helping them to grow their businesses and become more competitive.

Financing for businesses led or owned by women is provided under the EBRD and financed by donors. Business women which promotes women’s entrepreneurship and their participation in business by giving them access to financing and know-how.

To mark the results and share lessons learned, the EBRD organized an event bringing together 13 partner financial institutions from the six countries of the Western Balkans region, including large commercial banks and non-bank microfinance institutions.

To date, just over €65 million has been awarded to women-led micro, small and medium-sized enterprises under this program. More than 60 percent of these loans were for women living in rural and less developed areas outside the main urban centers.

The impact evaluation of the first phase of the program, completed in 2019, showed that 96 percent of businesses increased their revenues thanks to program support, with a third achieving between 25 and 50 percent growth. It was also estimated that 94 percent of recipients increased their number of employees, creating nearly 3,000 jobs in the region.

In addition to loans, women entrepreneurs benefit from grants that subsidize consulting projects, training programs, mentoring and networking activities. These grants were funded by Sweden, Luxembourg And Italy.

Aleksandra Vukosavljevic, Director, Financial Institutions, Western Balkans, EBRD, said: “Women’s entrepreneurship plays a key role in creating jobs and driving economic growth. We believe that creating equal opportunities for women in business is not only a matter of gender equality, but also an economic priority. That’s why, in the countries where we work, we help women entrepreneurs succeed and become more involved in business.

The program was first launched in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014, after which it expanded to the other five Western Balkan countries. The program is currently supported by Sweden.

Maria Melbing, Head of Unit for Western Balkans and Turkey, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, said: The inclusion of women and ensuring that women entrepreneurs participate in economic life on an equal footing with men is fundamental to any long-term inclusive economic development. The economic downturn following the pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine have hit women-owned businesses particularly hard. For economic recovery, a functioning financial sector with access to capital and financial know-how is essential for SMEs in general, and those owned by women in particular. With the EBRD’s expertise and experience in supporting access to finance through loans and capacity building, SIDA is confident that it will continue to provide significant support to the program of women’s economic empowerment in the Western Balkans.

In the Western Balkans, women entrepreneurs continue to face gender-specific difficulties, both in terms of access to finance and know-how, which reduces economic opportunities allowing them to create and develop their businesses. business. To request financing and advisory services, women entrepreneurs should contact the following partner financial institutions:

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