To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) highlighted its work with Kazakhstan’s women entrepreneurs.
On March 4, the EBRD announced that it had signed an agreement with BG Kazakhstan to continue the second phase of its support programme for women and young entrepreneurs in West Kazakhstan region’s Burlinskiy district. The programme, designed to meet the needs of female and young entrepreneurs, helps entrepreneurs and new businesses in Aksai and Uralsk through training, business tours, facilitating access to financing and providing consultancy support. So far, more than 100 entrepreneurs and startups have been assisted through the programme, which recently won a EUROBAK Corporate Social Responsibility Award for its contributions to the local community.
The first phase of the programme concludes this April; the second will run for another 12 months and provide coaching and mentoring services to new businesses while supporting existing businesses with advisory projects. BG Kazakhstan, a member of international energy exploration and production business BG Group, funded the pilot programme through its social investment programme. It has agreed to donate 210,000 euros to the second project phase, an EBRD press release said.
EBRD has been active in Kazakhstan for 20 years and has been providing small business support since 1998. According to an EBRD press release, one-fifth of the nearly 1,000 small enterprises assisted by the EBRD in Kazakhstan have been owned or led by women. Its 2011 Business Advisory Services factsheet highlighted its impact on a Taraz-based garment factory run by Lyubov Popova, which employs mostly women. After helping the company introduce a new financial information management system, Popova reported that quality improved, sales increased, and she was able to double her staff.
EBRD’s International Women’s Day press release quoted Alma Arkhabayeva, president of the Shymkent-based Asyl Arman dietary supplement producer and distributor, which is woman-owned and primarily woman-staffed. Through the EBRD programme, a expert from the United States worked with the company on its expansion.
“We knew that to keep growing we needed to look at expanding our exports,” said Arkhabayeva. “But there are challenges to this. Before starting, the EBRD helped us improve our internal communications and procedures. Now we are more efficient, management is easier.”
According to Charlotte Ruhe, director of the EBRD’s Small Business Support team, the goal of the project is to give women-led businesses the know-how they need to succeed and grow.
EBRD announced a new strategy for Kazakhstan in December 2013. Priorities include promoting non-resource sectors of the economy, balancing the role of the state and the market and promoting energy efficiency.