Azeri gov’t implementing macro-economic reforms
The Azerbaijani government is implementing key macro-economic and structural reforms, in close cooperation with the United States and the US Agency for International Development, US ambassador in Baku Anne Derse has said.
She told the opening of the 4th Azerbaijan Microfinance Conference in Baku on Tuesday that micro-finance development ensures financial support to underserved and excluded members of society. “It also spurs development of small businesses. And we know that it is small and medium businesses, not large corporations that drive employment, growth and development.”
Derse said Azerbaijan is at “a crucial turning point in its history.”
“Driven by the growth of oil and gas revenues, the economy has experienced one of the world’s highest growth rates, while experiencing a notable decline in poverty rates,” she said.
Derse welcomed Azerbaijan’s being named number one economic reformer in the world by the World Bank.
“This ranking has caught the eye of the international business world, and will spur important new foreign and domestic investment, creating new jobs and economic growth.
“The development of a robust micro-finance system can develop mechanisms for the poor and middle class to access some of this new wealth in Azerbaijan's economy,” the ambassador said.
Participants of the conference, organized by the Azerbaijan Micro-Finance Association (AMFA), noted that in Azerbaijan the first initiative of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in the sector was to establish the Microfinance Bank of Azerbaijan in October 2002 together with the International Finance Corporation, the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, the KfW Bankengruppe and AccessHolding of Germany. In late 2005 the EBRD extended its Azeri Multi-Bank Framework Financing Facility to include MSE lending to enable eligible participating banks to finance micro and small loans. The framework has been implemented successfully and to-date eight local commercial banks are extending loans to local MSEs as participants.
Since 2005, 262,570 sub-loans have been extended worth $693.1 million. Some 33 per cent of the aggregate sub-loans amount was committed to borrowers outside of the capital Baku. In addition to Microfinance Bank of Azerbaijan and local commercial banks, the EBRD is cooperating with non-bank microfinance institutions in Azerbaijan under a specific framework and has already signed loans with CredAgro, Finca Azerbaijan, SOA Kredit, Normicro and AzerCredit with additional projects in the pipeline.
Over the years the EBRD’s outreach in the MSE sector has increased significantly and relevant loans are now offered in Baku, Sumgait, Ganja, the northern districts of Khachmaz and Guba, the southern districts of Lankaran, the western districts of Goranboy and Shamkir as well as in Shirvan and Aran through the regional network of partner banks.
The EBRD’s credit lines are complemented by technical cooperation sponsored by donor funds. Under the programs resident consultants assist partner banks to establish and develop MSE lending departments in new branches and Azerbaijan’s regions through measures such as staff training, lending methodology and operations monitoring. Furthermore, 106 new loan officers have been trained in MSE lending methodology since the beginning of 2006.
The conference included a series of workshops that integrated a decade of microfinance best practices, leading to effective solutions for tomorrow’s industry challenges. Workshops included legal and regulatory environment snapshot; microfinance benchmarking, societal impacts, capital access, product innovations, and lessons learned. The program concluded with an awards ceremony, celebrating 10 years of service to the microfinance sector.*