The FINANCIAL — The EBRD is committing credit lines to help small businesses in Kazakhstan access much-needed financing in the local currency, tenge.
Working with a new partner in Kazakhstan, ForteBank, the EBRD will provide a total in tenge equivalent to US$ 60 million to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) across the country. Of this amount, the tenge equivalent of US$ 10 million will be earmarked under the EBRD’s Women in Business programme for small firms owned or run by women.
The loans will be supported by technical support to assist ForteBank with improvements in MSME credit-risk management and underwriting techniques, enhancement of performance measurement and reporting methodology, and training of MSME loan officers. In addition, Forte Bank will benefit from a capacity-building component that will enable the bank to reach out to women-led MSMEs through the introduction of new or improved products and processes, according to EBRD.
The loans will be guaranteed by the Kazakh Entrepreneurship Development Fund DAMU, set up by the government of Kazakhstan to support small businesses.
Janet Heckman, Director, Head of EBRD operations in Kazakhstan said: “Building resilient and inclusive economies is a key priority for the EBRD. Access to longer-term tenge financing is crucial for many local MSMEs. I am proud that today we are joining forces with a new partner, ForteBank, to support entrepreneurs, male and female, across the country.”
Forte Bank is the eighth-largest bank in Kazakhstan, offering banking services to retail, corporate and SME customers, with a presence in nearly 40 cities and towns in Kazakhstan.
Guram Andronikashvili, Deputy Chairman of Forte Bank, said: “Supporting SMEs in Kazakhstan is one of the strategic priorities for ForteBank. We are pleased to start our partnership with the EBRD by becoming the second partner bank in Kazakhstan under this programme. This credit line will allow us to offer more, and more affordable, financing to small businesses. The Women in Business programme is especially important for us. Forte Bank will become one of the first to create targeted, beneficial products for women entrepreneurs. This project is also another step in our partnership with the DAMU entrepreneurship fund in the SME segment, which started many years ago.”
According to EBRD research, there are fewer opportunities and less access to finance for female entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan compared with what is available to their male counterparts. Aiming to help women-led businesses achieve their full potential, the government of Kazakhstan has provided grant financing to the EBRD’s Women in Business programme, which is also offering business advice to women-led SMEs and technical assistance to partner financial institutions who distribute EBRD credit lines. Female entrepreneurs who apply for financing via Forte Bank will be able to benefit from this programme.
In December 2015, the EBRD adopted a new Strategy for the Promotion of Gender Equality 2016-2020, which sets out equal access to finance as one of its main priorities. Under the Women in Business programme, the Bank has approved the equivalent of US$ 46 million in tenge to women-led firms in Kazakhstan.
Support to small businesses is a key priority for the EBRD as they represent the backbone of most economies where the Bank invests. Financing and consultancy services have been provided to tens of thousands of MSMEs in cooperation with partner banks and micro-finance institutions under the umbrella of the EBRD Small Business Initiative.
To date, the EBRD has invested over US$ 7.5 billion in Kazakhstan.