Over 9,000 entrepreneurs in Central Asia completes the EBRD development programs
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has begun to respond to the crisis associated with the COVID-19 pandemic since the beginning of this year. In an accelerated fashion, existing tools have been adapted and expanded and new initiatives developed to address the immediate threat posed by the virus.
According to Ms Nadya Petkova, Head of the SME Financing and Development Group, the bank plans to devote all its activities in 2020/2021 helping 38 emerging economies, in which it invests in order to combat the economic fallout from the pandemic.
“It’s no secret that during any crisis, small and medium-sized businesses suffer the most, because they have the least access to funding. We all see that banks give the least loans or benefits to small businesses. Of course, the governments of many countries provide support measures for business, but not always fully and sufficiently to anticipate the next wave of the crisis. And so the role of the EBRD and other financial institutions is precisely to help entrepreneurs not only in terms of finance, but also in terms of advice, access to knowledge and skills development. Such programs helped to train more than 9000 entrepreneurs in Central Asian countries,” she said.
According to research carried out by the EBRD, the following common problems for small and medium-sized businesses caused by the pandemic have been highlighted:
Drop in revenue due to lower demand for orders;
Personnel issues: entrepreneurs are forced to introduce a shorter working day, negotiate with workers about lower wages and unpaid leave, which often leads to litigation;
Financial problems (difficulties with paying for services of suppliers, salaries of employees, business loans).
In addition, small and medium-sized businesses in Central Asia face such regional-specific threats as:
Insufficient level of government support measures and incentives;
Serious supply chain disruptions and delays in deliveries from overseas;
Disproportionate impact on women-led businesses, as women are more likely to take on additional responsibilities related to caring for the elderly and children and homeschooling;
Substantially limited access to finance.
However, small and medium-sized businesses are adaptive, which is why most respondents reported that changes have affected various aspects of their business in recent months. The share of ICT projects increased and reached almost 25% of the total consulting portfolio of the Central Asia SME Support Program in 2020, which clearly indicates that business is moving towards digitalization.
Countries need to prepare for the post-viral era and protect what they have achieved in building sustainable, fair and open market economies. In this regard, it is very important that despite the crisis and quarantine measures, the EBRD was able to transfer most of the events, as well as some of the consulting projects, to the online format.
One of such significant projects implemented with the support of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan is a series of Anti-crisis webinars "ReStart" for entrepreneurs.
The key task of the project is to monthly share with entrepreneurs the experience and knowledge of leading specialists in various areas of business management. Participation in the project is free. Both well-known Kazakhstani business trainers and business owners were invited speakers.
Since the launch of the project, more than 1000 Kazakhstani entrepreneurs have been able to improve their knowledge in various aspects of doing business, from automation of business processes to the strategy of company management. More than 30 speakers - active entrepreneurs, leading business trainers, experts from various areas of business management - shared their most valuable knowledge and personal experience for seven months. Inna Apenko, founder of the Mimioriki children’s clothing brand, were invited speakers of anti-crisis webinars at various times; Takhmina Kodiri, HR Director, Beeline Kazakhstan; Yerlan Ashim, owner and head of the Natige dairy brand; Laura Galieva, head of the tour operator Kazunion; Andrey Sudakov, Managing Partner of 2GIS.Nur-Sultan; Marat Bakkulov, founder of Almaty Ventilator Plant LLP and others.