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The European Bank supports Armenian businesswomen

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has been implementing the “Business Women” program in Armenia for almost 5 years, providing financial support and advice to business women. The program has summed up the first phase and prepares the next one. We talked with the program coordinator Zara Ohanyan about the results.


  • How did the program start, what budget does it have and in what countries is implemented?


  • The program in Armenia started in 2015, in the Eastern Partnership countries in 2014 with a total budget of € 150 million that includes both technical assistance and funding through EBRD, whereby the EBRD provides the return of the first loss of a certain percentage of the loan repayment. The program is implemented in two stages. 2014-2018 The first stage was  successfully ended, we evaluated the results and based on them, started the second phase of 2019-2023, with the success of the first phase. Donors are the EBRD, the EU4Business (EU for Business) initiative, Sweden and the Small Business Support Fund.


  • How can one describe the Armenian businesswoman?


  • In our program “Business Woman” is a documented executive body, which actually carries out the actual operation. In terms of age, our beneficiaries are different: from 19 – 20 – years old to 75-80, from businesses set only a few months ago to those that have been functioning for many years. We have already had more than 250 beneficiaries since 2015. It is very interesting that in terms of sectors not only stereotypical coverage is included. Except for the service sector, which is typical for women, there are other areas, including technical laboratories, production, and more. Almost all women entrepreneurs have a general idea that they are purposeful, responsible, ready to self-fulfillment and commitment.


  • What are the peculiarities of the program in Armenia, how are we different and similar to other countries?


– The project has two main blocks: financing and consulting. With funding, we work with local banks to provide credit lines that are subsequently distributed by banks to female entrepreneurs. At present, we are cooperating with 4 banks, Ameria, Araratbank, Armeconombank and ACBA. Banks are also ready to continue after the first attempt, as they applied for the 2nd, 3rd tranches.


–  What is the support given to business women in Armenia, which fields are the most important in this regard?


– Trainings and seminars are the strongest and most demanded part that includes five types of training. the most applicable, digital marketing, finance, ICT business, human resource management and leadership. The materials are presented by two local experts, one of whom is a business woman. Women entrepreneurs also have access to mentoring, coaching, consulting programs through local consulting firms. Up to 70% of the consulting programs are grants. Most of us are applying for marketing advice that are short-term, visible, primarily for promoting sales.


– What are the expectations of businesswomen in the future?


The entire cycle of the previous stage is also available until 2023. For example, we have an online platform, Business Lenses, a free survey of our site for any woman entrepreneur to fill in 100 business questions and get an image about business, a comparison with local business and the international. The tool essentially analyzes the business of a female entrepreneur to see gaps, in order to understand what part of the organization is effective, which is not. And with this report, a woman entrepreneur may approach our partner banks and also apply to EBRD to understand what consulting tools are most relevant to that particular applicant.


The potential is very high, international financial institutions are interested in gender issues and if they were previously social programs, now are more development. At present, we represent different partners to our programs so that we do not repeat with other organizations, but complement or implement different projects. The market is still big, there is a need for such programs, the fact that various institutions and banks address the topic already shows that there is much to do, moreover –  many fields of activity.


Interesting statistics on project results:


93 percent of project beneficiaries have registered a turnover increase, with an average of around 70 percent


Increase in productivity by 84% (on average 47%)


55 percent increase in the number of employees (on average 15 percent)


Access to finance has been about 31%


23% of beneficiaries have registered an increase in exports

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