• €10 million envisaged to support some 4 000 micro-enterprises under the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) Funded Instrument.
• This is the very first loan under the EaSI Funded Instrument to be signed.
• Of the 34 countries that can access the EaSI Funded Instrument, the first transaction is taking place in Serbia.
The European Investment Fund (EIF) and the European Union today announced the first EaSI Funded Instrument loan transaction in Serbia, worth €10 million. The loan will allow Opportunity Bank Serbia (OBS), the only specialised financial services provider for micro and small enterprises on the Serbian market, to increase its outreach towards vulnerable entrepreneurs, particularly in rural areas. OBS plays an instrumental role in the local economy by enhancing farmers’ access to various loan products.
The transaction will enhance the lending capacity of OBS, whose financial offer is complemented by non-financial services. The bank will distribute the loans under more favourable terms than existing commercial loans, and provide entrepreneurs with complementary education to improve their business management skills.
Alain Godard, EIF Chief Executive, stated: “This EaSI-funded transaction will enable the EIF and OBS to support more vulnerable entrepreneurs, including micro-farmers, across Serbia. This will contribute to the development of the microfinance sector in the country, strengthening its competitiveness and sustaining jobs, and thereby helping to improve the quality of life of local communities of small entrepreneurs.”
Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said: “I am delighted to announce this very first loan transaction under our new EaSI Funded Instrument, which makes Serbia the first country to benefit from the programme, helping the local economy. In these challenging times, the EU remains committed to supporting access to microfinance, which can help boost jobs, equal opportunities and inclusion – also at the local level – as part of the recovery efforts in the Western Balkans.”
Vladimir Vukotić, Chief Executive Officer of OBS, said: “Supporting micro-entrepreneurs and small farmers has always been a priority for OBS since our mission is to enhance employment and development in rural communities by providing access to finance to the underbanked. Presently, this strategy seems to be of even greater importance given that the economic crisis has slowed down business activity and resulted in micro-businesses and farmers facing even bigger challenges to keep their operations going.
For OBS, it is of critical importance to be recognised as a trusted partner of the EIF, as this partnership provides the bank with additional capacity to sustainably provide access to finance for micro-businesses and entrepreneurs. This is the third operation between OBS and the EIB Group, capitalising on the strong relationship developed over the last couple of years, and expanding and complementing the funding base of OBS.”