DUSHANBE (TCA) — Tajikistan has become the latest EBRD country of operations to join the Women in Business programme, which promotes women’s entrepreneurship through access to finance and know-how in order to stimulate business growth. This is made possible by a generous contribution from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs through the EBRD’s Small Business Impact Fund, the EBRD press office reported.
The launch event, which took place in Dushanbe on 25 September, brought together female entrepreneurs from various parts of Tajikistan and was attended by the Tajik authorities, the Swiss Government and local banks. The program is unique for the country, where 42 per cent of women are self-employed and are increasingly looking at entrepreneurship as a viable source of income.
Under the programme, the EBRD will seek to provide up to $8 million to partner financial institutions for on-lending to women-led businesses as well as business advice. Risk-sharing and technical assistance offered by the EBRD will seek to make loans more accessible for female entrepreneurs. In addition the Bank will provide women entrepreneurs with access to mentoring, entrepreneurship training courses, and know-how from local consultants and international experts to grow their businesses.
Two partner-banks, Bank Eskhata and MDO Imon International, became the first Tajik financial intermediaries to receive sub-loans of US$ 1 million each (equivalent in Tajik somoni) for on-lending to women-owned or managed businesses across the country. It is expected that more local financial institutions will join the Women in Business programme over the next three years.
In Tajikistan, women-led businesses face additional constraints because of the lack of dedicated financing products and customer service. Women are 3.5 times more likely to borrow from family and friends. Low financial literacy and insufficient business skills also leave women with less exposure to business opportunities and knowledge networks. As a result, women-led businesses remain concentrated at the micro business level of patent-holders.
Ayten Rustamova, EBRD Head of Tajikistan, said: “We are very happy to launch the Women in Business programme in Tajikistan, which is the first of its kind in Tajikistan. The programme aims to support female entrepreneurs, increase access to both finance and advice for women-led enterprises. This programme increases lending to the real economy, provides business advice and will also help banks and microfinance institutions analyse what can be done to further support female entrepreneurial talent.”
To date, the EBRD has invested over €608 million (US$ 700 million) into various sectors of Tajikistan’s economy and provided over 650 SMEs with access to business advice.