The economic empowerment of women tops the agenda of development agencies worldwide. Large gender gaps in business banking services exist in many countries, which also applies to the Western Balkan states. Women in the Balkans have progressed economically and socially in recent years. However, women entrepreneurship and access to business finance have not reached parity.
To address this gap and create a strong women-led SME sector, the EBRD Women in Business (WiB) Programme promotes women’s entrepreneurship by improving access to finance, business knowledge and non-financial business development services. Technical Assistance (TA) provided by Frankfurt School supports EBRD´s Partner Banks (PBs) in capacity building, product and business development as well marketing functions.
In a very successful first phase, seven EBRD PBs disbursed over EUR 40 million to women entrepreneurs to help them grow their businesses. To increase their entrepreneurial skills, Frankfurt School experts, in cooperation with the EBRD Advice for Small Business (ASB) team, organised seminars for nearly 1,500 women, which were accompanied by the organisation of networking events to help women share their experiences, make new business contacts and learn from each other. On the supply side, Frankfurt School experts extensively trained over 550 staff
at PBs in gender-awareness to ensure their understanding of women-specific customer relationship management and make this business relationship a win-win for both parties. Finally, after a baseline assessment of the PBs understanding and needs for a gender-focused business approach, the PBs benefited from Frankfurt School´s advice to develop and implement their women in business (WiB) strategy and moved towards a more client-centric approach with their product lines and marketing and sales approaches.
In the second phase, new PBs are receiving capacity building, while repeat PBs are receiving assistance in mainstreaming their WiB services and offers. Up to EUR 90 million of funding is available for on-lending and about 3,000 seminars for women are planned to improve women’s access to finance, business knowledge and networking opportunities.