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Azerbaijan Small Business Development Project Launched


In Baku
Farzin Mirmotahari

Phone: +994 12 92 19 41

Email:
fmirmotahari@ifc.org


Baku, Azerbaijan. December 15. 2004—The Azerbaijan Bank Training Centre (ABTC) has launched a new project to provide technical assistance in the development of small business services in Azerbaijan.

Co-funded by IFC, BP Exploration Ltd., and ABTC, the project’s goal is to build new training and consulting capacity within the ABTC that will provide high-quality and affordable services to the small business sector on a commercially sustainable basis. Demand for the first courses offered has been much higher than expected.


The project is part of a larger Joint IFC-BP SME Linkage Program to create greater opportunities for local small businesses as part of its financing of the $2.4 billion Azeri-Chirag-Deepwater Phase I oil field, a large-scale reserve in the Caspian Sea off Azerbaijan, and the related Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline that will carry its oil through Azerbaijan and Georgia to the Mediterranean coast off Turkey.


Specifically, the project targets the owners and managers of  small and medium businesses in Azerbaijan interested in obtaining training and consulting services for themselves or for their employees on a fee-for-service basis.

 
Key objectives include:


       
Development of 35 practical, high-quality small business management training courses in high-demand topics adapted to local conditions

       
Recruitment and training of at least 25 local trainers, capable of independently delivering the courses and eventually providing to small business owners consulting services

       
Delivery of training courses to about 900 participants on a direct-cost recovery basis over the term of the project.

The project will create a pool of local professionals who will initially receive support from foreign trainers. In time the local professionals’ role will be expanded, allowing them to provide the services independently based on the training they receive.


“Larger companies have substantial resources with which to access external support and services, small businesses most often do not, and as such face serious obstacles in improving productivity and growth,” said Laurence Carter, director of the Small and Medium Enterprise Department. “This project is part of IFC’s global effort to develop local, affordable, and high-quality business services for small and medium enterprises.”


“IFC looks forward to the development of this project and the provision of new services for the Azeri business community,” added Shahbaz Mavaddat, associate Director of IFC’s Southern Europe and Central Asia Department. “It is our expectation that by operating on a commercially viable basis, the project will have a real effect on the development of small business in the country.”


Martin Miles, BP’s Sustainable Development Director, said: “As the operator of world-class projects, which have the potential to improve economic conditions in Azerbaijan and the entire region, BP welcomes this partnership aimed at increasing the training and consulting capacity of local small businesses in order to help them move further toward international business practices and standards. The project is a joint effort to support these businesses in their attempt to understand and learn what the private business needs to accomplish to be successful in this developing business climate and to ensure long-term sustainable growth opportunities for themselves and for the country. We are pleased to be able to combine our efforts with those of IFC and ABTC to this end.”


Javanshir Abdullayev, Director of ABTC, spoke of the opportunities created by the project: “The ABTC, which is  well known in the Azeri market, is now offering services both to the banking and to the SME sectors. This will give both sides an opportunity to ‘speak the same language,’ to strengthen their business relationships, which in turn will result in the future economic development and the creation of new jobs.”


The total project cost is $677,000, of which IFC’s Capacity Building Facility is providing $270,450 and BP is contributing $267,300.  The reminder comes from ABTC’s in-kind contribution and anticipated revenues from the project. It is expected that ABTC’s new SME Services Division will be profitable in its third year.