By Alice Elizabeth Taylor
EUR 5 Million Fund Up for Grabs for Women Entrepreneurs

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has provided a EUR 5 million loan to Intesa San Paolo Bank Albania that will be used to fund women-led small businesses in Albania.

The loan is designed to encourage female entrepreneurs a well as to narrow the gender gap in accessing finance for business purposes. It is hoped that the initiative will increase the number of women that participate in the country’s economy.

The loan is valid for a duration of fiver years and has been issued under the EBRD’s Western Balkans Women in Business Programme and is the second of its type following a EUR 2 million loan in 2015. The loan is set to increase better economic inclusion by giving female-led start-ups, micro, and small-to-medium enterprises, the access to finance and business advisory services that they need.

The Western Balkan Women in Business Programme is supported by Sweden, Luxembourg, and Italy and it also works by training those in the banking industry on a range of new financial products that are available to businesswomen. The EBRD Women in Business initiative was launched in 2014 and to date has provided over EUR 30 million to financial institutions in the area that has then been lent to women setting up or running their own businesses. These loans have helped over 2400 companies access essential business advice as well as training, networking opportunities, and mentoring services.

Intesa San Paolo is a long-standing collaborator with the EBRD and is the fourth largest bank in Albania. With 34 branches across the country, it has the ability to reach most of the country. It is hoped that not only will the EUR 5 million loan increase participation in the world of business from women, but that it will also provide them with the soft and hard skills they need to make their success sustainable.

So far, the EBRD has invested approximately EUR 1.3 billion in 86 different projects in the country and this latest cash injection is an important step to reaching better gender equality in the world of business and entrepreneurship.

In the recent Global Gender Gap report that was compiled by the World Economic Forum, Albania showed room for improvement in terms of economic participation. The country also fared poorly for the educational attainment of women and criticised the country for a lack of legislation mandating equal pay.