The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is supporting women-led businesses and agriculture in Tajikistan with a US$2mn-equivalent Tajik somoni loan to Imon International, the country’s largest microfinance institution.

With this local currency loan, Imon becomes the second financial institution to join the EBRD’s Women in Business programme in Tajikistan and the third partner under the EBRD-EU Enhanced Competitiveness of Tajik Agribusiness Programme (ECTAP) launched in late-2016.

The funds will be on-lent to local micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) managed by women or active in agriculture or food production. As in other areas of the world, access to finance for these groups of entrepreneurs is particularly constrained, and demand for SME financing remains only partially satisfied.

The Women in Business programme is the first of its kind in Tajikistan. It aims to support female entrepreneurs by helping women-led MSMEs to access finance, know-how and advice.

In its countries of operation, the EBRD says it goes out of its way to help women entrepreneurs succeed and be more engaged in business.

“We work hard to help women unlock their potential, strengthen their skills and encourage their participation in business,” reads the bank’s website. It does this through providing access to finance through credit lines to local banks dedicated to women-led small and medium-size businesses, and through business advice, training and support for women entrepreneurs and women-led businesses. “We also work closely with our partner banks to help them offer financial products that better meet the needs of women-led businesses, changing the way they work.”

The EBRD-EU Enhanced Competitiveness of Tajik Agribusiness programme provides a combination of loans and investment grants to help farmers replace their obsolete machinery and enable financial institutions to introduce modern lending practices.

The loan will be complemented by technical assistance to Imon for the development of sustainable credit mechanisms.

International donors are providing funding for several elements of the Women in Business programme in Tajikistan, specifically first-loss risk cover, technical assistance and advisory support. To date, €450,000 has been allocated by the EBRD Small Business Impact Fund, whose donors are Italy, Korea, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, Taipei China and the US.

Imon CEO Gulbakhor Makhkamova says: “We are very pleased to have the EBRD as a long-term partner. Together, we are supporting the development of female entrepreneurship in Tajikistan by providing loans to women-led enterprises. We believe that the EBRD’s efforts to promote the economic inclusion of women will have a significant impact on the economic development of the country as a whole.”

To date, the EBRD has invested over €608mn into various sectors of Tajikistan’s economy.