The European Union and UNDP have come together to launch an important new project that will support hundreds of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) across Belarus over the next three years, as part of the EU4Business initiative.
The project – Local Economic Development in Belarus – builds on the growing contribution made by social enterprises and is designed to ensure they can be integrated and sustainable parts of the local, national and regional economies.
The project will generate new jobs for vulnerable and excluded parts of the population by equipping them with the support they need in terms of business knowledge, start-up support and access to affordable finance.
Andrea Wiktorin, the EU Ambassador to Belarus, said: "The EU is proud to further strengthen its support to local economic development in Belarus, having strong focus on the job creation, entrepreneurship and social enterprises. We plan to provide grants to at least 200 small and medium enterprises, social enterprises and NGOs that want to make their neighborhood better, launch new innovative businesses or supply socially important services to their communities. Our aim is to encourage people to pursue their ideas and to show that even small initiatives can have significant impact on local communities and on the whole economy of the country."
"Social enterprises are unique resources for local economic growth, and community cohesion,” said Sanaka Samarasinha, UNDP Resident Representative in Belarus. “Many local businesses in Belarus have great social intentions and potential but often lack support and knowledge on how to be viable in the long term and so by achieve the change they seek. This new project will give these future engines of economic growth the tools they need to succeed."
Micro, small and medium enterprises play a crucial role in employing a diverse workforce and income generation for local communities. In Belarus, the sector has great growth potential and currently constitutes 50% of the region’s economic value and employs 30% of the working population of the country. In the face of pressure on some established parts of the Belarusian economy, the MSME sector is ripe for investment and support.
The project supports the government’s Small and Medium Entrepreneurship in Belarus State Programme for 2016-2020 and is innovative in terms of using its capital to stimulate social impact within enterprise development. It also supports the EU’s Annual Action Programme that Supports Local and Regional Development.
The project will work with a number of local organisations to ensure those at the margins of society and the economy can enjoy the benefits of economic growth. The project will also ensure that women-led businesses can be supported given the low-level of women accessing start-up capital.
The project ‘Local Economic Development in Belarus’ is funded by the European Union under the EU4Business initiative and will be delivered in collaboration with the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Belarus.