The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) launched Trade Ready, its new technical assistance programme for SMEs, in Georgia this week.

Trade Ready offers SMEs trade finance training and trade-related business advice; networking opportunities with fellow SMEs, consultants, local banks and exporting partners; as well as policy dialogue to facilitate improvements in the regulatory environment. The initiative is also aimed at local banks, which the EBRD hopes will introduce new products customised for the SME market.

Speaking at the launch event in Tbilisi yesterday, Severian Gvinepadze, the EBRD’s principal manager, advice for small businesses in Georgia, said the initiative was being tested and piloted in the country, and that it will be “improved and tailored according to the needs of Georgian companies” as it progresses.

As of last week, Trade Ready is also being piloted in Serbia, and will be rolled out in other countries where the EBRD invests in the coming months.

SMEs interested in being involved in the programme are encouraged to fill in the EBRD’s online ‘trade passport’, a self-assessment tool to help companies assess their readiness to trade. Its purpose is to assist a company in identifying its strengths and weaknesses, and to support its subsequent strategic planning for its further expansion – which will be done with EBRD consultants.

Trade Ready is supported by an undisclosed amount of donor funding from the European Union under its EU4Business programme, an umbrella initiative that covers all EU activities supporting SMEs in Eastern partnership countries.

The programme extends the outreach of existing EBRD initiatives, such as its Trade Facilitation Programme (TFP), which promotes and facilitates international trade to, from and within the EBRD regions, and its Small Business Initiative, through which the EBRD provides business advice to SMEs.

The EBRD is a major institutional investor in Georgia. Since the start of its operations in the country in 1999, it has invested over €3.1bn in 223 projects in the financial, corporate, infrastructure and energy sectors, with 91% of investments supporting private sector development.