The FINANCIAL -- A programme aiming to improve youth employment in Georgia was introduced by Crystal micro-finance organization to the media last week at Rixos Hotel in Borjomi. Called YES Georgia, and funded by USAID, it aims to facilitate start-up enterprises. Crystal is going to fund the best innovative business ideas with possible participation as shareholder.
The programme is targeted at enhancing entrepreneurship development, the capacity-building of youth-led small enterprises through innovative forms of access to finance, knowledge and expertise. YES Georgia should increase the employability of young people by offering relevant training; improved financial capabilities; new forms of practical on-the-job training opportunities; and encouraging youth-friendly corporate practices.
The project will work with an estimated 1,000 youths, aged 17-25, in 20 municipalities of Georgia, organizers said.
“The programme seeks to broaden youth economic opportunities in Georgia, encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship, enhancing young men and women’s employability,” said Archil Bakuradze, Executive Chairman of the Supervisory Board of JSC MFO Crystal.
The financial literacy of 3 republics of the South Caucasus, including Georgia, is lower than the 3 poorest countries of Latin America, according to EBRD.
“The lack of understanding of financial products, which represent “credence goods”, a still low corporate culture among financial industry participants, a lack of government oversight, and practical absence of access to independent advice, results in a negative experience for many customers, leading to financial loss, financial crisis and accompanying physical and mental suffering,” believes the leadership of Crystal Fund. That is why Crystal Fund implemented a project aimed at enhancing the level of financial awareness and improving financial skills among the wider public in Georgia.
Crystal Fund is a non-profit organisation, established in 2003 on the basis of the Micro-Lending Programme of the Charity Humanitarian Centre Abkhazeti (CHCA), the premier national NGO assisting displaced people.
In 2004, Crystal Fund was registered as a specialized microfinance fund, until 2007, when the entire business operation was transferred to the JSC MFO Crystal. At that point, the Crystal Fund changed its mission in order to focus on strengthening the self-reliance of vulnerable groups and contributing towards poverty reduction in Georgia. At a later stage the strategy of Crystal Fund targeted financial inclusion, the role of technology in access to finance, as well as financial education.
Crystal offers a wide range of high quality financial services to customers, including: micro, SME and agro loans for start-ups and operating businesses; housing and consumption loans; currency exchange services; remittances; utility payment service, etc.
Headquartered in Kutaisi (West Georgia), Crystal is mainly focused on micro entrepreneurs and farmers living and working in regions and remote areas. As of 2015 almost 24% of the company’s loan portfolio is concentrated in non-urban areas.
Holding a market share of around 6%, Crystal is the 4th largest MFI in Georgia out of 62 registered institutions.
Last week Crystal was awarded the Certificate of Commitment to CSR for its impressive report on CSR activities.
Against the background of dramatic devaluation of the Georgian Lari, Crystal started offering the conversion of loans from foreign currencies into the national one, so as to bring relief to its customers. For further protection of citizens from exchange risks the company will continue crediting in the national currency.
“Despite the economic, political and financial difficulties last year, Crystal managed to achieve the desired growth rate and maintain a good quality of assets. The credit portfolio of the company increased by 48% and reached GEL 108 million,” Malkhaz Dzadzua, CEO and General Director of MFO Crystal, told The FINANCIAL.