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EBRD, EU and GIZ support digitalisation of SMEs in Bosnia and Herzegovina

2 mins read
  • Joint programme to boost competitiveness and support the digital transformation of small businesses in Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Fostering SME investments in technology and automation to help meet EU standards
  • EU grants to help make investments more affordable

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Union (EU) are stepping up support for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in Bosnia and Herzegovina by launching the Go Digital in Bosnia and Herzegovina programme. The programme was launched today with an event held in Sarajevo at Greenpark by Symphony, one of the most successful IT companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The new programme aims to help SMEs invest in the digitalisation of their businesses, alongside other investments to improve productivity, operational efficiency and resilience.

“SMEs will be able to apply for funds to invest in hardware and software for various digital transformation projects,” says Manuela Naessl, EBRD Head of Office for Bosnia and Herzegovina. “These investments can be standalone or in tandem with other crucial investments in automation or machinery that enhance environmental protection and product quality. The aim is to boost the digital transformation of SMEs and make them more competitive in EU markets and compliant with the standards required by EU Directives.”

The aim of the programme is to render SMEs more productive and foster environmental sustainability, as at least 60 per cent of the loan proceeds will be used to finance investments in green technologies. In the digital space, the programme will support projects in the area of digital communication, information and IT security, digital company management, and digital production processes and services.

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The Head of the EU Delegation and EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Johann Sattler underlined that the ‘EU4SMEs’ Programme is part of the EU’s assistance to support the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and the transition to a future-oriented economy. “SMEs are a key driver behind economic growth and development, and support for digitalisation will help businesses to be more competitive in local and international markets. The EU’s current IPA assistance to support the green and digital transition amounts to some €50 million, and target SMEs in particular. SMEs need to make full use of innovative technologies, skills and services, not only to grow on a more sustainable basis, but also to survive in the economy of the future”.

The first element of the programme will be a specialised credit line provided by the EBRD in cooperation with local financial institutions. The EU will provide grant incentives worth up to 15 per cent of the total loan amount to make SME investments in digitalisation, automation, competitiveness and green technologies more affordable.

Go Digital in Bosnia and Herzegovina will also offer SMEs access to tailor-made advisory services and training courses to help them better understand the opportunities afforded by digitalisation. This know-how will help them find the right approach and digital transformation investments for their situation.

Manuela Naessl added: “Reaping the benefits of digitalisation of our economies and business processes is important for companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are competing locally and in the international markets. Working with local commercial banks, these competitiveness credit lines will enable SMEs to obtain tailor-made financing and advice for the digitalisation and automation of their businesses.”

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The programme will be accompanied by activities from Germany’s Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), which will help to build an ecosystem for digitalisation, automation and innovation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including digital innovation hubs, in line with EU best practice.

Eva Naeher, Programme Director at GIZ, said: “Digital Innovation Hubs are an important concept in providing support for digitalisation and innovation measures in SMEs. The services provided can help SMEs to improve their products, processes and structures and may even open up new markets. This can happen via technology transfer, training and consulting sessions on dedicated topics. Furthermore, exchanges and networking between hubs and interested businesses and stakeholders will further open up new opportunities and create an enabling ecosystem, which we are happy to support with our co-financed project, EU4DigitalSME.”

The new Go Digital in Bosnia and Herzegovina programme contributes directly to the European Commission’s Digital Agenda for the Western Balkans, which aims to support the transition of the private sector and help businesses fully secure the benefits of the digital transformation of the economy.

By Bojana Vlajcic

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