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The European Commission makes available €4.2 million under the External Investment Plan to help banks in Africa and the European Neighbourhood to better assist underfinanced sectors such as small businesses, including young entrepreneurs and women.

Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, is signing this support agreement today in the margins of the World Bank Spring meetings in Washington.

This technical assistance programme will be implemented by the International Finance Corporation (IFC). It will support concrete capacity building measures to help local banks to develop new loan and financial products better suited to support underfinanced sectors such as young entrepreneurs, women and SMEs in low-income, fragile and conflict-affected countries, who have difficulties obtaining financing from their local banks.

This technical assistance will complement the EIP's “Small Loans and Guarantee Programme (SLGP)” worth €42 million, which aims to encourage local banks to lend to small companies, which have had difficulty accessing finance to date, including women-owned SMEs. It will also invest in high impact sectors such as health, education and agriculture in difficult emerging markets.

With the EU guarantee and accompanying expertise, local banks will be able to provide funding for operations that they would otherwise consider too risky. As a result, the guarantee and accompanying technical assistance is expected to offer access to financing for some 50,000 small businesses, including ones owned by women or engaged in green energy projects, as well as help to create up to 200,000 jobs.