ASTANA – The Kazakh government has allocated 41 million euros ($45.7 million) to expand European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) programmes in the country that support small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), an EBRD press release announced on May 8.
The EBRD and the government have signed three agreements totalling the 41 million euros. Twenty-two million euros have been set aside for a five-year EBRD project that provides advisory services to local and international consultants. The project is expected to reach more than 850 companies, conduct industry training for 500 business owners and provide business training to 250 consultants. An 11.5 million euro technical assistance programme will provide technical support to EBRD projects in Kazakhstan, including projects in the municipal sector. Finally, 8.2 million euros will be used to fund a new programme to foster female entrepreneurship in the country, the London-based lender reported.
EBRD Director for Kazakhstan Janet Heckman said, “Kazakhstan is one of only a few countries in which the EBRD works that contribute funds to technical assistance efforts. These signings … constitute the largest one-off contribution to small businesses, for example, and this valuable collaboration between the EBRD and Kazakhstan continues to enable the EBRD to do more and more varied work to support the country.”
The agreement comes on the heels of an EBRD event to raise awareness of the value of external advice for SMEs held in Almaty in March. The “Barriers to business: Unlocking the entrepreneurial spirit” forum gathered Kazakh entrepreneurs and business representatives to recommend ways to improve the investment climate in Kazakhstan, including addressing difficulties in accessing finance and know-how, the EBRD reported on March 18. At the forum, SME representatives shared how EBRD-supported advisory services had helped them become more competitive. The EBRD has also launched an information campaign in Kazakhstan on the value of external advice for businesses.
Kazakhstan has been increasing funding for its SME sector in recent years. A $5.5 billion programme to support industrial policy, banking and SME support was announced in May 2014, and is being implemented with assistance from the Asian Development Bank. The EBRD Small Business Support team is also active in the country. In 2013, Kazakhstan became the first EBRD country of operations to fund the EBRD’s Small Business Support activities.