The first OECD Working Group meeting on ‘Supporting the implementation and monitoring of Azerbaijan's SME roadmap’ took place on 7 December in Baku, as part of the project ‘EU4Business: From Policies to Action’, implemented by the OECD across the Eastern Partnership and funded by the EU in the framework of its EU4Business initiative.
The main objective of the meeting was to kick-off the joint project between the OECD and the Ministry of Economy of Azerbaijan on the implementation and monitoring of Azerbaijan's SME roadmap. Deputy Minister of Economy Sahib Mammadov opened the event, highlighting ongoing reforms on improving the business environment and expressing the Ministry's commitment to closely collaborate with the OECD on future reform efforts. Jeroen Willems, Head of Operations of the EU Delegation emphasised the importance of SMEs for Azerbaijan's economic diversification and William Tompson, OECD, highlighted the role of economic diversification and SMEs in job creation.
The morning session focussed on the implementation of the SME roadmap in the area of investment and trade. The Ministry of Economy presented key steps taken on the roadmap's implementation including identified activities and responsible working groups created within the Ministry as main co-ordinating body. The OECD presented a draft survey to be conducted among local firms and foreign investors to learn about the level of internationalisation of Azerbaijan's SMEs and potential linkages with foreign investors. During the discussion, participants emphasised the potential of Azerbaijan's agribusiness sector and reported on the successful creation of sectoral export associations.
The afternoon session focused on the monitoring and evaluation of the SME roadmap. Vusala Jafarova from the Centre for Economic Reforms Analysis and Communication provided an overview of the existing monitoring process including the progress achieved on the implementation of the SME roadmap. She informed participants that 6% of the actions have been completed while the implementation of 42% of actions is underway. Ricardo Pinto, International expert on SME development, underlined important achievements, including a first six-monthly monitoring report. He further shared good practice on how to improve key performance indicators and co-ordination between stakeholders.
The meeting was attended by stakeholders from different state bodies responsible for the implementation of the SME roadmap, local business associations, international chambers of commerce and by representatives from international organisations.
EU4Business works with the Azerbaijani government, associations and SMEs to develop the country’s SME sector by improving access to finance and markets, encouraging women entrepreneurs and building business skills. The EU also supports the government in the development of a more coherent policy towards SMEs allowing the country to unleash the potential of SMEs for long-term socio-economic development.