Efforts to boost the role of privately-owned micro and small enterprises as the engines of economic growth in Uzbekistan will get an additional boost from a US$3mn loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to Hamkor Bank, the most active in the sector.
Hamkor Bank accounts for a dominant share of the 8,000 loans provided to Uzbek micro and small enterprises since the EBRD and Japan set up the Japan-Uzbekistan Small Business Programme three years ago.
The EBRD’s second loan will increase its total exposure to Hamkor Bank to US$5mn. The money will complement Hamkor’s own funding and will be on-lent to its micro clients and small enterprises in Uzbekistan.
Hamkor has so far disbursed a cumulative total of US$10mn in small business loans. Disbursements are being made at a rate of over 500 a month and are continuing to grow despite severe constraints on credit expansion resulting from existing regulations.
One of Hamkor’s advantages is that it is one of the few private banks with a strong presence in the Uzbekistan’s fertile and densely populated Fergana Valley where access to micro and small business financing is particularly difficult.
The US$20mn programme launched by the EBRD and Japan in 2001 targets the problem of a weak banking sector and low levels of financial intermediation, both seen as major obstacles to growth of micro and small businesses in Uzbekistan. The programme’s aim is to make access to micro-financing easy and affordable.
The three other commercial banks participating in it are Uzjilsberbank, Pakhta Bank and Ipak Yuli Bank.
So far, 120 loan officers have been fully trained in 20 specialised micro and small finance departments operating in 10 Uzbek cities under this joint programme.