The third SME Business Project Competition, launched today, is organised by the National Bank of Ukraine and the EBRD, with the participation of five Ukrainian commercial banks – Aggio, Forum, Nadra, Ukrsotsbank and VaBank. Crucial support is provided by the Government of Canada through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

The competition, which has proved to be a powerful tool for promoting long-term lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is designed to let smaller Ukrainian companies demonstrate their strategic planning skills and ability to compete in the free market. In the course of the two previous contests, the international jury had a difficult task selecting winners from among the 28 local companies named as finalists.

Winners from the second competition – Sumy-based packaging materials producer TechnoPack and a telecom company, Romsat, from Kharkov – received discounted loans from participating banks and travelled to London to meet the UK business community courtesy of British Airways.

Ukrainian SMEs are now again invited to create and submit business proposals to the participating banks for financing their projects. An international panel of experts will review the submissions before selecting the winner, which will be announced at an awards ceremony in Kiev in March 2004. The competition’s rules and entry procedures will be explained at an Information Day to be held on 31 October 2003.

Prizes for the latest competition’s winners will include an interest-rate reduction on loans from local banks, as well as a trip to meet UK small businesses courtesy of the competition’s official carrier, British Airways, whose continuous support of Ukrainian SMEs has given the project a higher international profile.

The assistance of Canada’s CIDA has also been instrumental, not only to ensure the successful implementation of the competition but also in upgrading the technical standards of local participating banks through technical cooperation projects.

Further information on how to enter the SME Business Project Competition can be obtained by calling the National Bank’s Project Monitoring Unit on 044-230-1818 in Ukraine, or by asking at any branch of participating banks. Visit the official competition website www.bizproject.com.ua for full details and entry forms.

Since the launch of the first SME Line of Credit, 202 loans worth $171.8 million have been provided to Ukrainian smaller companies through SME I and II, with more than 65 per cent of these loans made outside Kiev.