EBRD launches Women in Business program in Tajikistan

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DUSHANBE (TCA) — The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is expanding its Women in Business programme to Tajikistan, which will become the 17th country to benefit from improved financing and business advice for female entrepreneurs under the programme, the Bank said on July 28.

The Bank, which sees economic inclusion as one of the attributes of a successful modern economy, has allocated US$ 10 million to the Women in Business programme in Tajikistan. As well as access to finance, the programme will help women access the know-how they need to develop their businesses, through business advice, training courses in key entrepreneurial skills and a mentoring programme.

Bank Eskhata is the first partner financial institution in Tajikistan to join the programme, which is supported by donor funds through the EBRD Small Business Impact Fund. Eskhata will receive US$1 million equivalent in Tajik somoni for on-lending to women-owned or –led businesses across the country.

Other local banks and microfinance institutions are expected to join the programme over the course of the next three years.

Faced with limited private sector employment opportunities and substantial reductions from the public sector, Tajik women are increasingly looking at entrepreneurship as a viable source of income: 42 per cent of women are self-employed.

Women entrepreneurs nonetheless remain under-represented in enterprises of all sizes, and the bigger the firm the less likely it is to be headed by a woman. According to public records and various surveys only a third of firms have women among registered owners and only 8 per cent of firms have majority-female ownership. At the same time overall level of financial intermediation remains relatively low with very few men (13.9 per cent) or women (9.1 per cent) having bank accounts.

Women-led businesses face additional constraints from lack of dedicated financing products and customer service, as a result of which women are 3.5 times more likely to borrow from family and friends. Lack of financial literacy and business skills also leave women with less exposure to business opportunities and knowledge networks, meaning women-led businesses remain concentrated at the micro end of the spectrum, and most women remain patent-holders, a Tajik classification reserved to individual entrepreneurs running very small, simple businesses.

The new EBRD programme in Tajikistan will provide dedicated technical assistance to participating financial institutions for development of female oriented customer approach and financing products. The EBRD will also provide financing to participating financial institutions, which will benefit from risk sharing components to make financing for female entrepreneurs more affordable.

International donors will support the EBRD’s programme in Tajikistan by providing funding for several elements, specifically first loss risk cover, the technical assistance to participating financial institutions and advisory support directly to women entrepreneurs (including work with international and local experts, training, mentoring and the analytical online platform Business Lens).

Sergey Kwan

TCA