By Bojana Vlajcic
24 Nov 2022
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Union (EU) are stepping up support for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in Albania through the SME Competitiveness Programme, which offers new financing opportunities for local businesses.
The programme, launched in Tirana today, combines EBRD loans and EU-funded grant incentives, which will be lent to small businesses in partnership with local commercial banks.
SMEs will be able to apply for funds to invest in new equipment and upgrades that can help them boost their productivity, cut operational costs, increase energy efficiency and improve their alignment with EU standards. In addition to loans, SMEs will benefit from grant incentives worth up to 15 per cent of the total loan amount, funded by the EU.
The aim is to help SMEs to go beyond their usual operations and invest in becoming more competitive in local and EU markets.
Ekaterina Solovova, EBRD Head of Albania, said: “Helping the private sector, particularly SMEs, in Albania to become more competitive and energy efficient is one of our key priorities here. We look forward to expanding this and similar programmes and reaching many more local businesses in partnership with commercial banks.”
Hubert Perr, Head of Cooperation with the EU Delegation to Albania, said: “This is a great opportunity for local SMEs to grow and bring their distinctive mark in a more regional market, particularly in the context of the global economic situation. Let’s ensure that these incentives reach those companies that demonstrate core European values in respecting their workers’ safety, quality standards, and the environment. The EU is here to support you.”
Specialised credit lines are currently available to Albanian SMEs at two partner banks, ProCredit and OTP, to which the EBRD has extended a total of €8 million in loans.
In addition, SMEs will have access to advisory support through the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses Programme. The programme links companies with local and international consultants working on identified challenges, such as strategy, marketing, digital transformation, export, energy efficiency, financial management etc.
SMEs account for 99.8 per cent of registered enterprises in Albania and generate close to 81.9 per cent of employment in the country. However, despite their dominant position in the economy, they often suffer from a lack of competitiveness and access to finance.
The EBRD’s SME Competitiveness Programme has been implemented in all Western Balkans countries with the aim of helping countries improve access to finance for local SMEs. More than 850 businesses have benefited from the regional programme so far.
To date, the EBRD has committed more than €1.9 billion to projects in Albania