In Focus: Some government initiatives, policies & schemes that are nurturing women entrepreneurs in Albania
#WomenEntrepreneurs #AlbaniaBusiness #EntrepreneurshipSupport
Albania, a country nestled in the heart of the Balkans, has been experiencing a transformative period of economic & social change. These changes have not only presented new opportunities for the nation as a whole, but have also offered a promising landscape for the emergence of women entrepreneurs. In recent years, Albania has undergone significant reforms to spur growth, recover from the aftermath of natural disasters like earthquakes, cope with the global pandemic & navigate the turbulence of price crises.
These reforms, directed at revitalizing the economy and fostering job creation, align with Albania’s ambition to integrate further into the European Union. Consequently, the country has risen to the status of an upper-middle-income nation with a developing market economy (The World Bank, 2023).
#AlbanianStartups #WomenInBusiness #EmpoweringEntrepreneurs #AlbanianEconomicReform #BusinessInnovation
The Albanian startup ecosystem is still in its nascent stages, but it is evolving rapidly. The nation’s young, ambitious entrepreneurs continuously launch innovative startups and business concepts. Government entities and youth organizations are equally committed, running startup programs and competitions to boost awareness about entrepreneurship and encourage the birth of novel startups and innovative ideas. The goal is clear: Albania aspires to catch up with the rest of Europe and the world. Yet, despite potential, there’s much work to be done.
In recent years, entrepreneurship has gained increasing prominence in Albania – and this shift is due to more streamlined business regulations and a rise in foreign investments. The rapid evolution of technology and the internet has empowered aspiring Albanian entrepreneurs to access information, tap into global markets, and breathe life into innovative business concepts. The growth of digital platforms and e- commerce has lowered entry barriers – opening new avenues for entrepreneurial pursuits.
Albania’s commitment to aligning its business environment with EU standards has resulted in various reforms and initiatives. These efforts have made an impact – for they improved entrepreneurship support programs, enhanced access to finance & fostered a culture of innovation and startups. Plus, it has played a pivotal role in diversifying the country’s economy, which was previously reliant on a few key sectors like tourism, agriculture, energy, mining, and metallurgy.
Let us delve deeper into the government initiatives, policies & schemes that are nurturing women entrepreneurs in Albania.
> UN Women in Action in Albania
UN Women works with Albania’s Government, private sector and civil society – to support policies and initiatives that focuses on – improving women’s economic empowerment; to reduce the gender wage gap; to promote women’s rights in the workplace and provide women with better access to credit, economic aid and basic social services.
Working to ensure that key national strategies include gender equality and greater economic opportunity for women, UN Women’s Economic Empowerment programme supports national gender equality priorities outlined in:
-The Government of Albania’s National Strategy for Gender Equality and Reduction of Gender Based Violence (2016-2020)
-The Business and Investment Strategy (2014-2020)
-The ground-breaking National Action Plan for Women’s Entrepreneurship (2014-2020) developed with UN Women technical assistance
-The National Strategy for Development and Integration (NSDI) 2013-2020.
So, it can be seen that this Programme provides supports to the Albanian Government to meet its international obligations relating to women’s economic empowerment. Besides, UN Women also works with Albania’s private sector to increase women’s participation in the work force, corporate leadership and supply and distribution networks through the Women’s Empowerment Principles of the UN Global Compact and UN Women.
Additionally, to put women at the centre of government economic policies, the Economic Empowerment Programme provides support to key ministries and institutions to implement women-oriented economic policies & programmes.
> Women’s Department
In 1992, a Women’s Department was established by the Government; and it is now called the “Women and Families’ Committee” and is attached to the Cabinet. Mainly, it aims to involve women in all fields of life through the elaboration and handling of social policies, better legislation, and collaboration with local authorities. In fact, some data produced by the State provide a comprehensive picture of the position of women in Albania.
The Committee’s efforts to assist and promote the establishment of enterprises by women have included – the organization of training seminars for women entrepreneurs and participants from NGOs and State departments on subjects such as: How to start a business; Preparation of business plans; Basic accounting procedures. These have been held both in Albania itself and abroad, with funds provided by the Government and some international organizations, such as the UNDP, EU and ILO.
Additionally, Round Tables attended by donors and women entrepreneurs have furnished several recommendations aimed at providing better support for women entrepreneurs. These include: the promotion of collaboration between Government bodies in the elaboration of policies designed to encourage the setting up of businesses by women in Albania; the professional upgrading of women entrepreneurs; the involvement of women in rural areas in the starting agro-businesses; the creation and consolidation of lending schemes to assist
women entrepreneurs and bringing about an improvement in the legislation governing NGOs involved in advising and supporting business.
FOREIGN INSTITUTIONS AND AGENCIES
A number of international organizations provide assistance to help women to go into business, e.g. USAID, UNDP, EU, ILO, ORT, SOROS, GTZ, SNV, FSHSHC, etc.
> Initiatives Supporting Women Entrepreneurship
Some initiatives have supported women’s entrepreneurship in Albania. Actually, these are initiatives to level the playing field for women entrepreneurs. For instance, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Albania are set to benefit from new financing provided by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) which are co-financed by grants from the European Union. The German Agency for International Cooperation or (GIZ), partnered with the Women Founders Network in Albania, and has developed programmes to support women-led ventures in the country and in the greater Western Balkans.
In addition, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) & United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have implemented many initiatives – to support women entrepreneurs in Albania by providing training, mentoring, and networking opportunities.
The Albanian government has developed several policies & programmes – to support women’s entrepreneurship, like the National Action Plan for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality. Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Albania have also provided support to women entrepreneurs. It is significant that women entrepreneurship in Albania has improved due to the Business Development and the implementation of the Investment Strategy (2021-2027).
> Social Entrepreneurship Sector
In Albania, the social entrepreneurship sector is still in an early stage of development. The first social enterprises in the country were created in early 2000, and although the sector has gained importance with the introduction of the Law on Social Enterprises, the vast majority of the enterprises have emerged thanks to the financial contribution of foreign donors or through non-profit activities.
Under the mandate of UN Women Albania, GlobalCAD and Yunus Social Business Balkans are carrying out a project to promote social entrepreneurship led by women, with a focus on the green and sustainable economy. The main objective of this initiative is to support women’s economic empowerment and the social (re) integration of the most excluded, through the creation of a favorable environment for the development of social enterprises in the Albanian region of Gjirokastra.
Additionally, the consortium of GlobalCAD and Yunus has conducted an analysis of relevant documentation on female social entrepreneurship, as well as a mapping of women-led organizations – in order to identify potential beneficiaries that could be interested in carrying out a training programme in social entrepreneurship.
> Ecosystem support for women entrepreneurs
It can be noticed that in the recent past couple, the Albanian entrepreneurial ecosystem has been growing rapidly and is advancing towards becoming more mature; and one of the signs of maturity is the specialized support it provides to specific groups. Different ecosystem actors recognized the need for support, and they rapidly organized programs aimed at providing support to female founders.
Some key initiatives are:
– Women Founders Accelerator – designed to help female founders learn and explore how to scale their businesses. The program was organized by Women Founders Network Albania and Spring Activator with support from the EU for Innovation project.
– Academy for Women Entrepreneurs – targeted aspiring women founders in the idea stage of business development. The lead organizer was Destil.
– Investment Readiness Programme for Female Founders – regional programme for scaling startups that helped founders prepare for the investment process. The programme organizers were Preduzimanje and Women Founders Network Albania, with the support of Efino and Swiss EP.
The most active support providers for female founders are WFNA and Destil and the two organizations worked together closely. And, they even organized joint informal networking and peer support events, such as – brunches, community gatherings, and mentoring sessions to keep the dialogue flowing. The latest installment was “Entrepreneurship Meets Creatives,” where 25 ladies from the creative industry met with women entrepreneurs to exchange ideas, challenges, and opportunities.