The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development works to advance the transition to an open-market economy through financial investment projects, business advisory services, trade finance, and loan syndications in 38 countries across Europe, Central Asia, and the Mediterranean. Lack of opportunities for young people is associated with economic and social difficulties. This report examined the potential of providing institutional financing to youth-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and young entrepreneurs as a solution to the problem of growing youth unemployment.

An analysis of comparable programs that provide access to finance to youth-led SMEs and young entrepreneurs demonstrates the different approaches and opportunities for impact. The report examined the financing-related challenges that youth face as compared to other under-served groups, such as women, in order to understand the necessary components of youth-targeted programming. Through an analysis of existing literature and programs, the report provided specific recommendations for research, programmatic approach, and geographic targets.

Due to limited research on the underlying efficacy of financing as a means of remedying youth unemployment and the limited number of directly comparable programs, there is a need for independent research about the impact of providing financing to youth-led SMEs and entrepreneurs. The report concluded that EBRD has an opportunity to develop unique programming and measure its impact on the issue of youth unemployment. This report used varying definitions of youth from the organizations or programs of study cited, some of which diverge from EBRD’s definition of ages 18-35. The report identified the diverging definitions of youth where appropriate, but the inconsistency complicates a comprehensive analysis.