The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is expanding its regional presence in Uzbekistan by opening a new local office in Urgench, its third in the country. Urgench is a major municipality in the west of the country.
The new representation will allow the Bank to support more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through expert advice, training and a variety of financial tools in the Khoresm region and in the Republic of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic in Uzbekistan which is, the country’s largest region and occupies almost 40 per cent of its total territory.
The EBRD will build on the success of its Advice for Small Business programme, funded by the European Union and the EBRD Small Business Impact Fund (with contributions from Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, Taipei China and the USA), which since 2017 has already delivered more than 100 advisory projects for Uzbek SMEs.
Jürgen Rigterink, EBRD First Vice President, said: “Last year Uzbekistan became the largest recipient of EBRD funding in Central Asia. It is important to keep this momentum going and expand our activity to support the post Covid-19 recovery. By opening our third office in Urgench we will improve the availability of funding for local SMEs, which are the principal employers in this part of the country.”
The share of population living in rural areas in western Uzbekistan is over 65 per cent, while SMEs employ around 80 per cent of the local workforce. The Urgench office will also help the EBRD to join international efforts to support the livelihoods and businesses of people affected by the consequences of the environmental problems in the Aral Sea area.
The EBRD is also planning to expand its activities under its Cultural Heritage Framework aimed at upgrades of hotels in the historic town of Khiva and the Khoresm region, opening Uzbekistan’s enormous potential in tourism and hospitality to leisure and business travellers and creating growth opportunities for local businesses. Khoresm, one the historic regions of Central Asia with a number of ancient places of interest, features on UNESCO’s world cultural heritage list.