If an economy runs like an engine, ask yourself why so many of these engines are running only at half speed? Too many emerging economies are ignoring the skills and potentials of half of their workforce; the one of women. They create more jobs, a growing economy and healthier happier people. Nothing feministic here, just a question of equality.

Even though we are far from singing Beyoncé’s “Women run the World”, we can certainly say that in Albania women might well rule business.
Small businesses in Albania account for 70 per cent of the country’s GDP and more than half its jobs, with textiles one of its strongest sectors, where most of the women are employed and lead their businesses.

But aside from motivation, hard graft and an unstoppable entrepreneurial spirit, women often lack access to finance and are faced with many challenges on running their business. If you are a woman business owner looking to start a new business venture or grow your existing enterprise, finding the right kind of financing can be challenging.

To surpass these hurdles, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is supporting the development of women entrepreneurship in Albania with a €2 million senior loan to Intesa Sanpaolo Banka Albania. The loan is being extended under the EBRD’s €20 million Western Balkans “Women in Business”- programme for on-lending to women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Albania.

“Our Women in Business programme helps address these challenges female entrepreneurs face when running a business such as access to finance or technical expertise. Women entrepreneurs are a great potential driver of business activity and empowering women also helps build an inclusive society, which is key to achieving sustainable economic growth,” said Christoph Denk, EBRD Director for Albania, at the seminar held the other day in Tirana when women entrepreneurs were introduced to the program.

Despite financing, advisory services are offered alongside mentoring and longer-term coaching to provide female entrepreneurs with the knowledge and confidence to take the next step.
“Women play an ever-increasing positive role in the economic growth of Albania, managing multiple roles in our society and doing them very well. This is why together with the EBRD we have created special packages combining finance and advice so that these extraordinary women can continue their successful path with a friend at their side,” said Silvio Pedrazzi, CEO of Intesa Sanpaolo Bank Albania at the seminar.

The seminar in Tirana, the first of a series to be held around Albania in coming months, brought together over 100 female entrepreneurs and key supporting stakeholders and various organizations that support women-led businesses.
The event focused on the importance of financial management for business growth and launched Business Lens, the EBRD’s online self-diagnostic tool for women entrepreneurs, which helps women identify the strengths of their business and opportunities for further development.

Under the framework, participating banks will on-lend finance to local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) established or led by women. In addition, the programme also offers advice, mentoring and coaching to help women entrepreneurs access know-how that is vital to their growth.

While the importance of women in the economy is generally acknowledged, women-led businesses still often face obstacles in obtaining credit and in developing their managerial skills.

Women do bring growth and with a little push on financing they can be that fast engine that drives the economy./AgroWeb.org.