Georgia: conference in Kutaisi highlights government and EU support for SMEs

Western Georgia Business Forum for SMEs

The Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) recently hosted a Western Georgia Business Forum for SMEs at its renovated regional office in Kutaisi, which also houses the local DCFTA Information Centre. Up to 200 SMEs from western regions of Georgia attended the forum, which was organised with the support of the 'SME Development and DCFTA in Georgia' project, funded by the European Union as part of its EU4Business initiative.

The event was opened by Nino Chikovani, President of the GCCI, and addressed by the Georgian Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development George Kobulia, as well as Vincent Rey, Head of the Cooperation Section at the EU Delegation to Georgia. 

Entrepreneurs from western regions of Georgia had an opportunity to meet with Minister Kobulia, share with him existing challenges and topical issues affecting entrepreneurs in the regions. They also heard about the government's plans with regard to business. 

The format included presentations and discussions about implementation of the EU-Georgia Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) and the challenges in this process. Participants were informed about existing programmes and facilities that support SMEs in adapting to the DCFTA requirements and prepare them for export to the EU market. GCCI representatives shared information about DCFTA Information Centre consultation and training services, as well as TVET services offered by the GCCI Imereti Regional Office.

Support for SMEs

GCCI President Nino Chilovani said she hoped the renovated office in Kudaisi would turn into a place where entrepreneurs from western Georgia could meet: "Thanks to the support and efforts of our international partners, all the means are in place for SMEs to receive the consultation services they need most, attend trainings and be provided with the space for business meetings. These renovated premises will play a great role in terms of providing a venue for raising awareness in regions about the government services and the services provided in the area of on-the-job training,” she said.

Minister of Economy George Kobulia said: “Support to regional SMEs is among the priorities of the Ministry’s action plan. It is our aim that entrepreneurs in the regions have the best information and access to the benefits created by the government in terms of providing incentives to business, increasing the volumes and quality of local production, exploring new export markets and establishing free trade agreements with various countries."

He added: "We believe that it is important to help local businesses with respect to staff trainings, improvement of professional qualifications – to this end, we have already announced a large-scale retraining programme, which will take place on the base of vocational institutions, at a first stage."

The forum provided a good opportunity to reach out to local business representatives the existing support projects and facilities offered by the EU to SMEs across Georgia’s regions to help them adapt to the DCFTA requirements and develop export capacities. 

Knowledge hub

"With the brand-new facilities, the GCCI regional office and its DCFTA Information Centre are well equipped to perform their role as vibrant knowledge hub and business resource," said Vincent Rey from the EU Delegation. "I hope that even more companies will be able to profit from tailor-made support and take advantage of the opportunities for trade and business links between Georgia and the European Union." The event was organised in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, the EU-GIZ project on 'SME Development and DCFTA in Georgia' and the Academy of Munich/Upper Bavaria Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK). 

EU support

The renovation of the GCCI Imereti Regional Office was co-funded by the EU and German government via projects implemented by GIZ and Academy of IHK. It is envisaged that the space will turn into a business centre for entrepreneurs in western Georgia. It will provide them with the venues to connect, attend business forums and hold other meetings. They will be also able to receive professional consultations on the issues of their utmost interest. 

At the local office of the DCFTA Information Centre, which was also established with support from GIZ, funded by the European Union, entrepreneurs will receive advice on the opportunities provided by the free trade agreement with the EU. To this date, 4,400 SMEs have benefited from the services provided by the Centre’s local offices in Kutaisi, Zugdidi, Batumi and Gori via consultations, field meetings, and trainings.

The 'SME Development and DCFTA in Georgia' project assists Georgian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to become more competitive and adapt to the new regulatory environment created under the EU Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). The project is part of European Union's EU4Business Initiative, which brings together all EU programmes assisting SME and private sector development in Georgia.  EU4Business enables the private sector to take advantage of the opportunities offered by DCFTA, which gives Georgia access to a common market of 500 million consumers.