Cultivating Success: Examining Women Entrepreneurship in Cyprus

In Focus: Some government policies, initiatives & grants for women entrepreneurs in Cyprus

#CyprusEntrepreneurship #WomenInBusiness #PolicyShifts #EmpoweringEntrepreneurs

Cyprus, nestled in the eastern Mediterranean, is witnessing a positive evolution in its entrepreneurial landscape. And it can be seen that there is a prominent emphasis on fostering women entrepreneurship. As the nation paves the way for economic growth, the role of women entrepreneurs is becoming increasingly significant. Government policies and initiatives are playing a pivotal role in shaping this landscape; and the aim is to provide support, encouragement and resources to women venturing into the business world.

While Cyprus exhibits strengths in physical and legal infrastructure, there’s a studied effort to enhance entrepreneurial education. This shift is not restricted to traditional schooling, but extends to programs that nurture an entrepreneurial mindset. However, challenges persist, including the need for more robust educational initiatives at the school level, increased visibility of entrepreneurial programmes, and improved access to financial resources too.

Here, let’s delve into the state of women entrepreneurship in Cyprus, exploring the impact of government policies, initiatives & grants, the ongoing transformation of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. And let’s analyze the existing strengths, address challenges & try to shed light on the dynamic landscape that women entrepreneurs navigate in Cyprus.

The New Entrepreneurship Programme for 2021-2027 offers very attractive incentives that encourage women to establish new businesses. Thus creating new job opportunities and contributing to the economic development of the country.

However, tracing policies, programmes and initiatives to support entrepreneurship for women in Cyprus, one can note the following:

– Female entrepreneurship is included to some degrees in major strategic documents, including the 2015 National Policy Statement for the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem and the RESTART 2016-2020 Programmes.

The 2015 National Policy Statement for the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem is the main policy to support entrepreneurship in Cyprus; and it outlined the Government’s vision to boost economic growth by growing an entrepreneurial spirit and strengthening the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The policy statement focused on strengthening entrepreneurial skills and activities and highlighted a need to enhance support for youth and female entrepreneurship. The statement had set a number of essential actions to be implemented between 2016 and 2020 – including the integration of entrepreneurship into education, increased career guidance, more promotion of entrepreneurship (including social entrepreneurship), regulatory improvements, strengthened e-government, incentives for business innovation, and increased supply of non-bank finance.

The Cyprus National Reform Programme 2017 and the Operational Programmes in the period 2014-2020 (co-funded by the Cyprus Government and ERDF) also aimed at the enhancement of women entrepreneurship in Cyprus.

– The Scheme for the Enhancement of Women’s Entrepreneurship, introduced by the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism of the Republic of Cyprus (co-financed by the ERDF) is a central programme in terms of access to finance for women entrepreneurs. The Women’s Co-operative Bank initiative also plays a role, which has been integrated into the Cyprus Cooperative Bank. In terms of training opportunities, a notable initiative is the Women in Business programme in Cyprus, launched in 2018. The programme funded by the ERDF and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), offers access to know-how, advice, non-financial business development services and networking opportunities to women-led SMEs active in the Republic of Cyprus – in order to help female entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor and the National Report conducted for 2018-19 on Entrepreneurship in Cyprus, continued advancements were observed since late 2018 in the national system for research and innovation (R&I). Recent developments included the launch of a reformed integrated governance system for R&I and the adoption of “Innovate Cyprus” – a new strategic framework for R&I (2019-23), which highlights objectives that aim to address the challenges of the country’s national ecosystem for research and innovative entrepreneurship. The primary objective of the effort is to extend the productive base of the economy through knowledge-intensive sectors and support in this way sustainability in new and existing entrepreneurial ventures.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Education has developed a set of activities intended to guide students of all ages towards entrepreneurship and creativity; and this effort is supported by several governmental and nongovernmental organizations and networks across entrepreneurial competitions on yearly basis.

For attaining this objective, an e-government strategy is being implemented, tending to simply the legal procedures required to register a company and the existing legal framework is being improved, with the purpose of enabling spin-offs through public universities. Training for teachers is also offered by the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute aiming to expand educators’ entrepreneurial and communication skills by introducing tools for the advancement of creative thinking, innovative ideas, participation and self-confidence.

> Financing entrepreneurship

There are currently few public policy actions that facilitate access to finance for new entrepreneurs (from under-represented and disadvantaged groups). The main support schemes are – the Grant Schemes on Youth Entrepreneurship and Female Entrepreneurship, which are co-funded by the Cyprus Government and the European Regional Development Fund.

Another important initiative is the Women’s Co-operative Bank, which specializes in supporting and enhancing women entrepreneurial activities through the provision of loans of up to EUR 100 000. In addition, some tax measures provide deductions for investments in innovative projects.

> Entrepreneurship skills

As part of the current Youth Entrepreneurship Support Scheme and the Female Entrepreneurship Support Scheme, the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism offers business counselling and mentoring to entrepreneurs, who received a financial grant in order to support them developing their business. Some entrepreneurship training programmes for the unemployed are also offered through the Employment of Long-term Unemployed Scheme and the Employment of Unemployed in Retail Microenterprises scheme.

Business start-up training programmes are not widely available and existing programmes are generic and do not address the specific barriers faced by different groups. The 2015 National Policy Statement and RPF Restart 2016-2020 showed commitment to building and strengthening entrepreneurial skills in the country.

> Entrepreneurial culture and social capital

Public policy actions that aim to build an entrepreneurial culture in Cyprus are at the early stages of their implementation as part of the 2016-2020 National Policy Statement actions and RPF RESTART Scheme.

The Ministry of Education and Culture of Cyprus, with the support of the Pedagogical Institute has initiated a series of entrepreneurial training programmes and competitions targeting secondary education teachers and students, which seem to have a high impact amongst students and educators, and there has been an increased interest in running intraschool entrepreneurial competitions, participating in business idea/plan programmes and competitions, submitting bids on the themes of entrepreneurship and innovation, etc.

These actions help strengthen the entrepreneurial culture within the education system in Cyprus, which is expected to have a role in building an entrepreneurship culture more broadly.

– Recent policy developments

A notable initiative was the Women in Business Programme, which was launched in February 2018. The Programme is managed by the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, with support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

> New Strategies – in the pipeline

On October 6 2023, Cyprus stepped up to take action – to support women entrepreneurs. Josie Christodoulou, the Commissioner for Gender Equality, announced a collaboration with various Ministries and Deputy Ministries – to plan supportive measures for women’s entrepreneurship, while speaking at a training event focused on Women’s Entrepreneurship and its Economic Contribution. Christodoulou also revealed that these measures will be integrated into the National Strategy for Gender Equality 2024-2026.

The cultural significance of women in rural areas, was underscored too as they made their contributions to Cyprus’ heritage.

> Grants for women entrepreneurs approved

On Nov 10, 2023, €10 million worth of grants were approved for women entrepreneurs. ‘The main objectives is to strengthen and encourage women’s entrepreneurship in Cyprus and in our city,’ said Larnaca Mayor, Andreas Vyras.

Cyprus’ economy is improving after years of financial recession. There has been emphasis on boosting the island’s research and entrepreneurial capacity. The latest Cyprus National Team Report provides an insightful overview of the changing dynamics of the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, identifies trends and highlights comparisons across Europe.

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