USAID Enterprise Development Project in Central Asia
The Enterprise Development Project was a United States Agency for International Development Business Consulting project, dedicated to building capacity for Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SME’s) in Central Asia. We worked with hundreds of partner organizations to maximize the reach of our client services, and we employed over two hundred staff. With our vast experience from serving hundreds of SME clients, we were able to offer practical solutions across a range of business functions.
The project was providing entrepreneurs with the opportunities to acquire business information, knowledge, and skills through the implementation of its seven inter-related major components: 1) Business Training, 2) Accounting Reform, 3) Business Advisory Services, 4) Regional Trade Promotion, 5) Association Development, 6) Quality Management Center (Kazakhstan only), and 7) Cross-Cutting Related Activities. The ultimate objective of the project was to enhance the productivity and competitiveness of local companies so that they are able to compete in domestic, regional, and international markets.
The technical assistance provided by the EDP was delivered through twelve Enterprise Development Centers (EDCs) located throughout the region: 5 in Kazakhstan, 2 in the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and 1 provided limited services in Turkmenistan.
During the first year of implementation, the program took a tiered approach with some companies receiving a full menu of assistance from the various components, while others received limited service (such as only business training). In the Fall 2003, the EDP shifted their approach so that the EDCs were structured and the consultants’ interactions with their clients mirrored that of western consulting firms. This strategy was referred to as the Enterprise Improvement Practice and resources were utilized from the business training, accounting reform, business advisory services, and quality management services components from the contract. Enterprise Improvement services were intended to be provided to a broad range of client firms at a moderate depth of assistance.
The relationship with a client began with the Relationship Manager (RM) working with senior management of an enterprise to develop a Strategic Action Plan (SAP). The SAP identified an organization’s vision, its opportunities and challenges, and concrete steps (with a timeframe) that were necessary to advance the company to its next stage of development, and it was broken down into the three main units of a business’s operations: marketing, finance, and operations. Resources from the EDP that would assist were identified during this process. Key Monitoring Ratios were collected by the RM at the beginning of the process and were monitored on a regular basis throughout the period of the partnership. These ratios assisted in measuring the effectiveness of the technical assistance provided.
The main components of the Regional Trade Promotion (RTP) consisted of local Trade Advisors (one in each EDC) and the internet-based market board (www.smetradecenter.net). Trade Advisors posted “offers to buy” and “offers to sell” on the website and stayed in frequent contact with each other to match deals. Trade advisors also actively searched for new markets for their clients, both within Central Asia and internationally. They had made trips to Afghanistan and Russia to explore new opportunities, which resulted in some success. Through the association development component, the RTP was rolled out to local business associations in order for it to expand and ensure sustainability in the long-term. At the end of the project, the RTP was acquired by the local Kyrgyz company ITEG and is an independent, sustainable entity.
The largest single component of the EDP was the accounting reform component, and was referred to as the Certified International Professional Accountant. The CIPA program is a Russian language testing and certification program that has three designations: the Certified Accounting Technician (CAT), the Certified Accounting Practitioner (CAP), and the Certified International Professional Accountant (CIPA). The CAP and CIPA certificates bear the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) logo, which indicates that the program is based on and in compliance with IAS. Exams were administered in five Central Asia countries as well as, Russia, Ukraine and Moldova.
The International Council of Certified Accountants and Auditors (ICCAA) is an association consisting of thirteen associations from Central Asia, Ukraine, Moldova and Russia, and is based in Almaty. Its mandate is to unite the accounting and auditing associations in the former Soviet Union and promote the CIPA program. During EDP, the ICCAA co-issued the CAP and CIPA certificates with the appropriate local association, and an annual “Winter Congress” was held every year to discuss and decide on common issues and problems. In 2008, the CIPA program was officially handed over to ICCAA, who now owns and operates the program independently.
The Quality Management Center (QMC) is a local NGO based in Almaty and provides training and pre-audit ISO 9000 services for enterprises throughout Kazakhstan. QMC was originally established by Pragma under the EDP project and at the end of the contract, it was a fully sustainable independent entity that continues to operate at present time. Under EDP, it had a local Director and was advised by an ISO 9000 expert from the project. The QMC had a representative in each of the EDCs and it also provided its services in other regions of the country. The QMC trained its staff on additional standards such as ISO 14000 as a means to increase revenue. When the EDP first started its operations, there were no other providers of ISO 9000 training services. Currently, however, there are a number of private organizations (both local and international) that are servicing the Kazakh market.
Association development (AD) began its operations in the Fall 2003. The Mission’s previous SME development project provided training to local business and accounting associations. The EDP’s AD component, in collaboration with the Trade Facilitation and Investment (TFI) project, focused primarily on providing grants for the following activities: advocacy, member services, accounting reform, and cross border trade development. Ultimately, the AD component was intended to support projects aimed at the development of enterprises and entrepreneurs bringing them economic benefits.
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