EBRD, Sweden and Banca Intesa Boost Women Entrepreneurs in Serbia

Photo-illustration: Unsplash (Jeswin Thomas)

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is extending an EUR 8 million loan to Banca Intesa Belgrade in Serbia. The financing, which Sweden is backing with grants and technical assistance, will support investments by women entrepreneurs.

The financing for businesses run or owned by women is being extended under the EBRD’s Women in Business programme, which promotes women’s entrepreneurship and their participation in business more broadly by providing them with access to finance and know-how.

The loan agreement was signed by Alain Pilloux, EBRD Vice President, during his visit to the country. He said: “Improving access to finance and know-how for women-led businesses is one of our key priorities in the economies where we invest. The Women in Business programme, in particular, is helping to encourage and empower many women and I hope that this new financing will support many of them in going a step further and investing in scaling up their businesses.”

In the Western Balkans, including Serbia, women entrepreneurs continue to face gender-specific challenges, both in terms of access to finance and access to know-how, curtailing economic opportunities to establish and grow their businesses. To help improve access to finance, the EBRD offers specialised credit lines in partnership with commercial banks. Since its launch in the Western Balkans in 2014, the Women in Business programme has provided more than EUR 57 million in credit lines to more than 4,800 women-led micro, small and medium-sized enterprises across the region, giving them access to finance, advisory services, training, mentoring and network-building activities.

Banca Intesa has so far signed 20 credit line agreements with the EBRD, of which five were under the Women in Business programme.

Darko Popovic, President of the Executive Board of Banca Intesa, said: “Economic empowerment of women and their stronger integration into economic flows are important prerequisites for employment growth and sustainable economic development, which is why Banca Intesa has been providing strategic support to this segment of the economy for many years. As the first bank in Serbia to join the Women in Business programme, we have so far supported more than 2,500 women entrepreneurs with over EUR 25.8 million in loans, helping them to develop their businesses and achieve professional ambitions. It is my great pleasure that after the exceptional success in the implementation of the previous four agreements, we continue our cooperation, thus encouraging the creation of an environment that boosts the development of women’s entrepreneurship and contributes to inclusive economic development”.

The EBRD is a leading institutional investor in Serbia. The Bank has invested more than EUR 7.3 billion in the country to date. Its focus in Serbia is on private-sector development, improving public utilities and facilitating the country’s transition to a green economy.

Source: EBRD