The goal of the “Advice for Small Businesses in Uzbekistan” Programme (hereafter the “Programme”) is to strengthen the SME sector in Uzbekistan in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on March 16, 2017.
The Programme has two specific objectives: (i) improve SME competitiveness and access to finance, and (ii) strengthen the infrastructure of local advisory services available to the SME sector. Activities will both address skills gaps, e.g. export promotion, and also raise awareness about opportunities for financing.
In particular, the Bank will seek to finance SMEs with the potential to become market leaders both directly and also via credit lines through partner banks. By offering a combination of advice and finance to promising small and medium businesses with an ambition to expand and grow further, the Bank will seek to open up potential investments across all sectors.
The EBRD will seek to provide access to know-how to promising SMEs that meet the following criteria:
“SME plus”: standard EU definition of an SME is 250 employees, but EBRD will support companies with up to 500 employees.
Ownership: Be majority privately owned and locally based/incorporated. EBRD will support companies owned locally and also by citizens of other EBRD countries of operations.
Area of activity: All sectors excluding military products or services, tobacco production and gambling.
Maturity: A minimum 2 years of successful operation and positive cash flow (EBRD may also support start-ups on selected basis).
Commitment: Companies must commit to be fully engaged in the project and make all necessary resources available, including financial.
The EBRD will establish a network of qualified experts and local consulting companies.
EBRD conducts integrity checks as well as reference checks on each local consultant prior to prequalification. Consultants are only prequalified to work on certain types of advisory services where they demonstrate competence.
The final choice of the consultant for a specific project rests with the client SME, while the EBRD will make sure that each expert has the capability to deliver high quality advice.
The Bank will also offer consultants opportunities for their professional development, such as trainings.
Under this Programme, the EBRD will enable SMEs in Uzbekistan to access know how from local consultants and international experts as well as undertake sector and market development activities to strengthen the SME sector.
EBRD will follow its proven Advice for Small Businesses methodology that is currently active in 26 countries of operations. The Programme includes a grant component, wherein the EBRD will provide grants (typically up to €20,000) to SMEs to cover part of the cost (typically up to 75%) of business advice from local consultants.
Under this component, the EBRD will connect companies with local consultants to implement advisory projects in areas such as business planning and export promotion.
Each project is monitored throughout the project cycle (see corresponding section below).
The EBRD monitors each SME advisory project throughout implementation to ensure compliance with the Bank’s policies and procedures as well as quality of delivery. EBRD maintains the right to cancel projects at any time.
The entrepreneur applies to the EBRD and submits all the necessary documents. The EBRD considers and approves the application. EBRD conducts integrity checks on each client that includes searches into the identity, reputation and commercial/political interests of entities and individuals that represent/own the client companies.
The EBRD works with the client to define the project need. The client is introduced to local consultants with specific know-how to address these needs. The specification of the project is subject to EBRD approval.
the client signs a contract with the consultant on the services to be rendered. Separately, the client and the EBRD sign an agreement on the grant to be provided.
The consultant works on the project. The EBRD monitors and supports through the whole process.
The client confirms that the project has been successfully implemented, pays the consultant in full. Subject to verification by the EBRD of the scope and quality of the work delivered (including client site visit, project final report presentation and analysis, and proof of payment), the client then receives the grant from the EBRD to reimburse part of the costs of the project.
One year after the project, the EBRD returns to the client to check impact and results. The project rating is based on OECD Development Assistance Committee criteria for monitoring and evaluation. Questions relate to the relevance, efficiency, effectiveness and impact of the project.
The Programme will be implemented and managed by the EBRD. The EBRD will seek to establish a Stakeholder Meeting at the beginning of the Programme to provide guidance and ensure smooth implementation. This body is expected to meet once a year with participation from the EBRD, representatives from the Government of Uzbekistan, business intermediaries such as the Chambers of Commerce, donors, SMEs and other relevant partners.
With these meetings, EBRD will seek to ensure local ownership, alignment with national strategies and harmonisation with other actors’ efforts.
The EBRD will provide an annual progress report ahead of each Stakeholder Meeting. Results to be tracked include number of SMEs accessing business advice.
% of assisted SMEs increasing turnover, increasing employees and successfully accessing finance (respectively); number of local consultants trained and pre-qualified by the EBRD; and % of SMEs engaging a consultant again after the project.