The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Raiffeisen bank Austria d.d. Zagreb (RBA) are joining forces to support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Croatia with a special emphasis on women-led businesses.
The EBRD will provide a loan of up to €20 million to Raiffeisen for on-lending to local companies. MSMEs form the backbone of the Croatian economy and taking steps to ensure they have access to finance is crucial for the sector to return to growth.
A quarter of the loan will be dedicated to women-led businesses in order to overcome existing constraints holding back female entrepreneurs. It marks the roll-out of the EBRD’s successful Women in Business programme in Croatia with the support of Technical Cooperation funds provided by the EBRD’s own resources and the Taiwan EBRD Cooperation Fund.
Under this programme, RBA will become the first bank in Croatia to offer services specifically designed for female entrepreneurs. The aim of the loans is to strengthen women’s participation in the local economy and create conditions for their success.
Vedrana Jelušić Kašić, EBRD Director for Croatia, said: “This is an important day for us because we are welcoming our long-standing partner Raiffeisenbank Austria Zagreb into our Women in Business programme. Strengthening the role of women in the economy is an important element for our society and it also makes economic sense. We are pleased that Raiffeisen has decided to stand at the forefront of these efforts and we welcome other interested banks to join our programme.”
Michael Georg Müller, President of the Management Board of RBA, added: “The Raiffeisen Group is working very closely with international and local development institutions who share our goals. The new credit line marks the successful continuation of our cooperation with the EBRD and stresses the importance of female entrepreneurship in Croatia. It highlights the advantages of cooperation between development banks and commercial banks. RBA will channel the funds from the credit line to SMEs with a focus on female entrepreneurs, which are a vital part of the economy and valuable drivers of competitiveness and employment.”
The signing of the loan agreement took place at an event in Zagreb organised by the consultancy and accounting firm Deloitte, the EBRD and Raiffeisen to promote equal opportunities for women and men in the Croatian economy. Following the opening addresses, two panels examined the issues of diversity and excellence in corporate performance and entrepreneurship.
The EBRD has been active in Croatia as an investor since the country’s independence and has invested some €3.2 billion in more than 170 projects to date. The Bank’s activities cover all areas of the economy but are especially strong in the infrastructure, corporate, financial institutions and energy sectors.
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