Sep 21, 2017

BELGRADESeptember 20, 2017– Through the programs of the Development Agency of Serbia (RAS), more than 1,600 micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and entrepreneurs received business assistance from mentors, in accordance with the methodology developed in many years of cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

As a result of many years of successful cooperation between RAS and JICA, an official event was organized in Belgrade today, marking the continuation of cooperation through the project “Establishment and promotion of mentoring service for small and medium enterprises in Western Balkans countries, Phase 2, 2017-2020”, that will be implemented by RAS and JICA, together with development agencies from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Montenegro and Macedonia.

The project is focused on the improvement of the standardized mentoring service in Serbia, as well as the continuation of transfer of Serbian mentoring expertise to Montenegro, BiH and Macedonia, with support from Japanese experts.

Mrs. Katarina Obradovic Jovanovic, Assistant Minister of Economy of the Republic of Serbia, expressed gratitude to the Government of Japan and partners from JICA for the long-term cooperation and joint success. She also stated that this is one of few JICA projects that have regional character, and a rare example of JICA supporting four consecutive projects in one country.

JICA has been working on SME development in various countries more than 40 years. Total number of cooperation in this field is about 470 in total in the whole world besides 30 on-going projects. It is our pleasure that we will continue working on the further development of SME mentors in the Western Balkan Region based on these experiences.Through the new phase of the mentor project, JICA will introduce a new tool "KAIZEN" to the exiting Mentoring Service. It is expected that SMEs will obtain knowledge how to control quality and improve productivity with it.” – stated Mr. Toshiyuki Nakamura, Director General of Industrial Development and Public Policy Department, JICA. He also said that JICA always emphasize mutual understanding and trust is the key to success of all the projects, and in that sense, it would be deeply appreciated if everyone here could closely work toward a creation of better environment for SMEs in this Western Balkans through the Project.

Ms. Ana Zegarac, Director of the RAS Sector for Planning and Development, emphasized that results of mutual cooperation so far indicate the importance of the project. She said that RAS’ research about the importance of mentoring support in Serbia has shown that as many as 98% of clients have stated that they would participate in the project again, and 90% that they improved their business with assistance provided by mentors. “In the next three years, with JICA support and cooperation with regional development agencies, we have a great opportunity to transfer the improved standardized mentoring service to the SMEs in Serbia. Also, together with our partners, this knowledge will be expanded and applied to Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia.” – concluded Ms. Zegarac.

The speakers at the event, including representatives of the Embassy of Japan in Serbia, spoke about the importance of cooperation and promotion of mentoring, while mentors from Serbia, BiH, Montenegro and Macedonia presented the best examples.