EBRD Launches Women in Business Programme, Offers Credit to Female Entrepreneurs

ASTANA – The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has launched a 3.7 billion tenge (US$14.1 million) credit line for women entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan, the bank announced Sept. 22.
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“The EBRD is proud to announce the launch of its first project in Kazakhstan under the new programme ‘Women in Business,’ actively supported by the government of the country under the auspices of enhanced partnership with the EBRD. I would like to thank Prime Minister Karim Massimov and Minister of National Economy Yerbolat Dossayev for the partnership with the EBRD programme, in which we jointly strive to unlock the potential of the country,” EBRD Director for Kazakhstan Janet Heckman said announcing the new programme, according to the EBRD.

She also thanked the country’s Damu Fund, which supports small businesses in Kazakhstan, for supporting EBRD initiatives in the small- and medium-sized business (SME) sector.

The credit line, the first project in the larger Women in Business programme, will be provided through Bank CentreCredit, one of the EBRD’s partner banks in the country, the EBRD reported. The new programme is intended to help SMEs headed by women gain access to funding, expertise and advice with a combination of credit lines, consulting on modern management practices, technologies supporting productivity and competitiveness and other mechanisms.

Consulting will be provided at one of the EBRD’s six offices in the country, in Aktobe, Almaty, Astana, Kostanai, Shymkent and Ust-Kamenogorsk, the EBRD reported. The EBRD is also planning to open an office in the city of Karaganda.

Women in Kazakhstan head only 40.7 percent of active SMEs in Kazakhstan, according to an Azernews report on Sept. 22, and contribute 38 percent of gross domestic product, despite being more than 51 percent of the population as of 2013. Women’s SMEs tend to be smaller than men’s, according to Azernews.

In an interview earlier this month, Fulbright-Clinton Fellow at Kazakhstan’s Union of Women Entrepreneurs Rachel Ostrow noted that women, particularly those outside of the country’s large cities, face additional hurdles to accessing credit because of a tendency for property to be listed in the names of men in their families – their fathers or husbands. This lack of credit can make the expansion from small to larger businesses especially difficult for women. Women’s businesses in Kazakhstan and in many of the EBRD’s countries of operation also have poorer access than men to information and technical support, according to Azernews.

Kazakhstan, which has so far provided $43 million to EBRD programmes to support SMEs in the country, is credited as a donor to the Women in Business programme as well.

Chairman of Bank CentreCredit Vladislav Lee said the new programme would help support existing business and preserve jobs during the difficult economic times the country is going through, according to the EBRD press release.

Women in Business programmes have already been launched in Turkey, the Western Balkans and the Caucasus, the bank reports.

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