Ninety-nine per cent of all enterprises in Kosovo are SMEs. With unemployment levels of 43 per cent and the youngest population in Europe Kosovo is relying on these SMEs as their best driver of employment for the future – SMEs that are often stagnating due to low productivity or limited sales.
With the help of donor funding from the EU, the EBRD’s Small Business Support (SBS) team recently completed a successful 41-month programme working with SMEs in Kosovo. The core of the SBS programme involved working with 115 different enterprises, helping them access professional expertise from international and local consultants so they can develop and grow, stimulating employment and private sector development in the country. These projects helped the enterprises improve their operations in areas as diverse as marketing, accounting, energy efficiency, accounting and quality standards.
One business that worked with SBS under this programme was TrePharm, a pharmaceutical company that was looking to improve their quality standards in line with EU requirements and design a new approach to their product development, marketing and financial reporting. As well as working with an international expert from the pharmaceutical industry, TrePharm also took part in an SBS-sponsored trip to Italy, where they could see state-of-the-art technology in action. The project was considered so successful that the results were shared with 100 pharmacists from across Kosovo in a seminar accredited by the Kosovo Ministry of Health.
The programme also had a social dimension, targeting women in business, minorities, young entrepreneurs and people with disabilities and rural development. One key component was Women in Business workshops, focusing on women entrepreneurs. SBS held two training sessions for women business owners and managers in the agro-processing and textile industries, two of the key growth sectors for women in Kosovo, including providing information on accessing finance – something which continues to be particularly challenging for Kosovar businesswomen.
A further initiative had SBS team up with NESsT, an organisation working to promote social enterprise development in Kosovo. Together, SBS and NESsT held two skill-building workshops for Kosovan social enterprises and private businesses to help them plan ahead, get away from ad hoc project planning and increase the impact of their programmes. Enhancing social enterprises in turn generates more jobs for vulnerable groups, such as women and people with disabilities.
For companies like TrePharm, the success of this programme is already clear. The enterprises that took part in the programme report an average turnover increase of 31 per cent and an increase in the number of employees of 12 per cent. As TrePharm CEO Mergim Prishtina put it, “SBS is showing us how to fish more effectively.”
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