By Sara Israfilbayova
Azerbaijan has great potential for the development of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and the achievement of European indicators in this area.
The head of Operations Section at the EU mission in Baku, Jeroen Willems made the remarks at the first meeting of the working group on the project to support the implementation and monitoring of the “Strategic Roadmap for the Production of Consumer Goods in Azerbaijan at the Level of Small and Medium Enterprises” in Baku on December 7.
He said that SMEs play a leading role in the economic growth of Europe and the creation of jobs.
“About 99 percent of all businesses in Europe are small businesses. 85 percent of new jobs and two-thirds of all jobs in the private sector account for the SMEs. SMEs make up 60 percent of GDP and employment in Europe,” Willems said.
He went on to say that in Azerbaijan these figures are much lower than European ones: “SMEs account for less than 10 percent of GDP and employment. The development of SMEs will help increase the country's income and achieve European targets in this direction.”
Further, he added that the EU is ready to support the establishment of the Agency for Small and Medium-sized Entrepreneurship in Azerbaijan.
He said that the creation of the Agency will greatly assist the development of SMEs: “We have already seen the positive impact of the establishment of the agency in other countries and are ready to support its establishment in Azerbaijan.”
The next meeting of the working group on the project to support the implementation and monitoring of the “Strategic Roadmap on production of consumer goods in Azerbaijan at the level of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)” will be held in March 2018, Daniel Quadbeck, the project manager, said.
Quadbeck, who is also an expert of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said that expansion of access to financial resources and globalization of SMEs in Azerbaijan will be the main topic of the next meeting.
At the next meeting, development and use of alternative financial instruments, as well as expansion of cooperation of Azerbaijan’s SMEs with international ones will be discussed, he said.
Initial results of a survey among business structures, which is planned to be prepared within the first meeting, will be also considered within the framework of the next meeting, he added.
The expert noted that the third meeting of the working group is scheduled for June next year. Development of women’s entrepreneurship and its cooperation with other business structures will be the main topic of the meeting, he said.
The issue of creating a centralized Agency for Small and Medium Enterprises in the country is reflected in the Strategic Roadmap.
The management of the agency will include both representatives of the state and private sectors. Subsequently, in 2017-2018, it is planned to create a SME House under the agency, where a special center will operate to provide entrepreneurs with services on the principle of a ‘single window’, employment services, a training center, a representative office of the Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation (AZPROMO), departments of international organizations and other instances.
The creation of the agency can increase Azerbaijan's GDP by 200 million manats ($117.65 million) by 2020 and create 240 new work places. It is planned to attract investments worth 10 million manats ($5.88 million) in this regard.
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