The USAID Agricultural Support to Azerbaijan Project (ASAP) aims to increase incomes and employment in rural areas by delivering firm-level investment and technical assistance to agribusiness enterprises that wish to engage with commercial markets as private businesses. Implemented by CNFA, the 63-month project was initiated in June 2014.
The Government of Azerbaijan (GOA) recognizes that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the backbone of the private sector, play a significant role in the economic development of any country, and especially Azerbaijan with its high dependency on natural resources, such as oil and gas. Historical evidence shows that high economic growth, such as Azerbaijan enjoyed over the past decade, does not guarantee sustainable development on a long-term basis. Sectoral development, particularly in the sphere of SMEs, is of great importance to insure sustainable economic development. SMEs make up over 95% of all of Azerbaijan’s registered enterprises and tend to lead to a more equitable distribution of income than larger companies. In December 2017, the President of Azerbaijan signed a decree establishing the Agency for Development of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMB) under the Ministry of Economy. According to the decree, the Agency is a public legal entity that supports the development of small and medium-sized businesses in the country, provides a range of services to SMEs, and coordinates and regulates the services of state bodies in this field. Also, in accordance with the decree, SMB will open and run several SMB Houses, which will render a range of services, including training, consulting, information, financial and other services to SMEs. Recently, SMB requested that USAID provide it with an international consultant to serve as an advisor to help them plan for and launch the first SMB House, which is planned to initiate operations by the end of 2019.
With the aforementioned context in mind, ASAP seeks a consultant with an expert background in public service provision to help SMB to design the first SMB House and plan for its establishment and launching from a technical perspective (i.e., physical layout, location of various services, infrastructural and logistical solutions), training needs, policy and procedures, and ongoing operations. Below is a brief description on the first SMB House planned to be built.
The Central SMB House will be a type of “one-stop shop” for SMEs. It will be built in an active economic zone at the southwest entrance to the city of Baku, which will serve as a favorable location from both a geographical and logistical point of view. Another positive feature of that location is the opportunity it presents to expand if more space is needed and its potential to attract additional investors. The facility for the Central SMB House will be built in accordance with modern architectural design principles and using a lightweight construction in order to enable completion of the project in a shorter period of time and, if necessary, allow for the launching of the SMB House’s operations in several phases.
In all, 34 government authorities, including all departments and agencies that govern SME establishment and operations, will provide more than 100 Government-to-Business (G2B) services and private entities will provide more than 1000 Business-to-Business (B2B) services in the Central SMB House. These services will cover all five periods in an SME’s life cycle, including:
1. Planning the business
2. Starting the business
3. Running the business
4. Developing the business
5. Closing the business
Planning the business envisages services supporting the launch of start-up projects, development of business and marketing plans, improvement of business skills, and support to register patent rights. Through this section, the services of the Agency for Intellectual Property Rights, business incubators, business accelerators, consulting companies, and other entities will be provided.
Starting the business envisages the services supporting the full registration of entrepreneurship activity, obtaining licensees, banking, insurance, leasing, ICT, notary and legal support, as well as support for operating in preferential tax and regulatory regimes, and support for accessing preferential financial sources. Through this section, the services of the Ministry of Taxes, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Emergency, the Baku Transportation Agency, banks, insurance companies, notaries, and other entities will be provided.
Running the business envisages services supporting day-to-day recordkeeping for small and medium enterprises, reporting to tax and other government authorities, customs clearance during import-export operations, comprehensive support on access to infrastructure and logistics chains. Through this section, services will be provided by the State Customs Committee, Ministry of Taxes, Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, Food Safety Agency, State Advertisement Agency, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Transportation, communications and modern technologies, Azerbaijan Airlines, Azerbaijan Railways, Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company, as well as other entities related to logistics, law, and auditing.
Developing the business envisages assistance to enhance participation of small and medium business in the domestic market, access to foreign markets, export promotion, participation in procurement conducted by government entities and blue chips; and access to finance. Through this section, the services of the Azerbaijan Investment Company, Entrepreneurship Development Fund, ITC Fund, Youth Fund, Knowledge Fund, Aqrolizinq (Agroleasing), Foodstuff Procurement and Supply, Agrocredit, AzPromo, and other entities will be provided.
Closing the business envisages legal and technical processes regarding termination of entrepreneurship activity through a single window. Through this section, the services of the Ministry of Taxes, notaries, legal consultancies, and other entities are to be provided.
Along with a comprehensive range of services to be provided by the public and private sector in the Central SMB House, infrastructure such as office spaces, auditoriums, meeting rooms, conference halls for banks, insurance companies, microcredit entities, business associations, women entrepreneurs and family businesses as well as startups and enterprises started by youth will be provided, which in turn will serve to foster a comfortable and favorable business environment. Cafeterias and waiting rooms, both indoors and outdoors, will be comfortable places for conducting private and public business meetings.
Currently, SMB is in the process of finalizing a feasibility analysis. Thus, the Agency is keen to engage an expert acquainted with best international practices. This assignment includes provision of ad-hoc technical recommendations on design of the first SMB House and its facilities from a technical standpoint (physical layout, location of various services, infrastructural and logistical solutions, e.g.), training needs, policies, and operations.
This consultancy will require an experienced authority with international experience with relevant public and private development agencies and organizations.
· Conduct field analysis of the SMB’s plans to establish the first SMB House and provide evaluation and specific recommendations regarding the modeling of the physical layout of the facility, location and function of various services represented at the House;
· Employ knowledge of international experience in enhancing the business environment, liberalization of trade, improvement of investment climate, enabling assess to finance by the SMEs, using one-shop stop model for entrepreneurs to be able to benefit from the “Green Corridor” system to help optimize customs control procedures, contribute to more flexible and transparent implementation of customs clearance and solving problems arising in the course of import-export operations, to outline and select the most relevant practices and help apply those having the greatest potential for improvement of SME business operations; and
· Hold meetings/electronic communication with key personnel of the SMB and establish direct communication with the Agency and ongoing coordination with ASAP representatives.
SPECIFIC DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
· Perform a robust assessment of the SMB’s plans to establish the SMB House and provide evaluation and specific recommendations regarding the modeling of the physical layout of the facility, location, and function of various services represented at the House;
· Review SMB personnel job responsibilities, interview SMB staff, and provide specific recommendations regarding their capacity building and training needs;
· Provide specific recommendations on the SMB House’s customer interface/communications platform to facilitate interaction with customers/beneficiaries, streamline the process for accessing the facility and the offered services, making service requests, and rating the services received by the government agencies represented at the House;
· Draft a concept paper regarding the services that USAID should rendered to private entrepreneurs, agribusinesses, and other SMEs through its own window or service center to be established in the SMB House; and
· Support the SMB to identify, design, and implement additional measures to incentivize and facilitate SME creation and their successful operation.
The Consultant is also expected to advise the SMB more broadly by:
· Providing recommendations for a more coherent SME policy linked to broader economic and social goals;
· Suggesting appropriate institutional arrangements for implementation and monitoring of policy measures and support programs;
· Recommending a design of a public-private sector partnership in policy formulation and implementation by enhancing the dialogue between representative business organizations and public bodies on SME policy;
· Recommending specific support policies for SME development to facilitate access to crucial resources such as finance and information;
· Introducing a commercial orientation in the delivery of support services: cost-share with customers/beneficiaries whenever possible to enhance the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of projects; and
· Providing recommendations on the system of monitoring of progress in line with performance indicators: analyzing performance and impact periodically with the stakeholders as defined in the design of SMB Houses.
MEETINGS RELATED TO UNDERSTANDING AND PERFORMING THE WORK
The Consultant shall meet, but is not limited to meeting, the following individuals or groups of individuals in order to fully perform the work specified under this Consultancy:
§ Key personnel of the SMB
§ David G. Blood, USAID Agribusiness Consultant
§ George Melton, USAID Agribusiness Consultant
§ Yashar Farajov, USAID Agribusiness Consultant
§ Samir Hamidov, USAID Contracting Officer’s Representative
§ Written summary of meetings and findings;
§ Final report with recommendations on:
o Assessment of the SMB’s technical personnel including the recommendations for capacity building and outlining areas of desired increase of competences;
o A recommendation on full design of the first SMB House, including its physical and operational layout and interactions;
o A concept paper regarding the USAID’s services rendered to the private entrepreneurs, agribusinesses and other small and medium sized businesses through the SMB House.
Note: While the aforementioned reports are expected to provide an essential summary of the efforts, findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the consultant, the overall priority of the assignment should be to serve as a resource for SMB management and staff with whom they can solicit and discuss ideas and from whom they can receive immediate feedback as they move toward finalizing plans for SMB House design and implementation.
PERIOD OF PERFORMANCE
This assignment is proposed to take place, beginning as soon as the candidate is selected, for a duration of the equivalent of up to 30 eight-hour consulting days. This consulting assignment envisions 25 field-based consulting days and up to 5 days allocated for developing deliverables and travel.
MANDATORY AND DESIRED QUALIFICATIONS
International legal and SME development experts who are interested at the assignment should meet the requirements below:
· Strong professional background in relation to law or political science, public administration or related fields, at least 10 years of professional experience in design and delivery of public sector services for the private sector;
· Strong academic record in relation to law or political science, public administration or related fields, including advanced degree;
· Demonstrated track record in research or other writing on measurement and governance analysis on public and economic sector, or in direct development of policy for private sector development, desirable;
· Demonstrated expertise in law and local governance with emphasize on SME development
· Proven command of spoken and written English language, some knowledge of Azerbaijani, Turkish, or Russian a plus.
Deadline for applications is February 22, 2019.