Unveiling the Landscape of Women Entrepreneurship in Kosovo

In focus: Some schemes, initiatives and policies that are available for women entrepreneurs in Kosovo

#WomenEntrepreneurs #EmpowerHerBiz #KosovoBusinessWomen

In Kosovo, the evolution of women’s leadership in entrepreneurship has been a unique journey, overcoming historical taboos that lasted till the 90s. The post-2000 era witnessed a significant surge in businesses led by women, and this contributed profoundly to the emancipation of Kosovo’s modern society. Despite this progress, women entrepreneurs in Kosovo encounter numerous challenges and barriers.

Scrutinizing the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in their business endeavors, it was revealed that in the business landscape of 2021, women entrepreneurs controlled roughly 20% of enterprises, with women-owned businesses constituting 17% of the total. This signifies their growing impact, which also shed light on their experiences, offering insights that can further pave the way for a more inclusive and supportiveentrepreneurial environment for women in Kosovo.

Here are some schemes, initiatives that are available for women entrepreneurs in Kosovo.

> Ministry of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MIE)

Ministry of Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (MIE) main aim is – to stimulate the innovation activities in Kosovo which are closely related to the entrepreneurship and economic development focused on innovative SMEs. Here, the MIE aims to impact the job generation with targeted youth and women entrepreneurship. On the regulatory environment side, the ministry has established the inter-ministerial working group that will be responsible for drafting the National Strategy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and will establish the National Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The Fund for Innovation and Entrepreneurship looks at providing pre-incubation, incubation, start-up and early stage growth support. In addition, the MIE will provide technical assistance support for innovative companies and entrepreneurs in order to build capacities for filing documents and preparation of legal aspects to get patent application outside Kosovo.

Kosovo Investment and Enterprise Promotion Agency (KIESA) under the Ministry of Trade and Industry is responsible for coordinating comprehensive SME policy and implementing programmes for MSME’s. KIESA is accountable for factors like – reviewing and updating SME Policy, growth of the competitive environment and the development of the SME sector in Kosovo. KIESA offers also direct support to start-ups and SMEs through activities such as voucher scheme, training, B2B, linking SMEs with foreign investors etc.

Ministry of Economic Development (MED) drafts and implements policies and strategies on the overall economic development of Kosovo, supports the development of market economy, market liberalization in public services and the introduction of private capital in public endeavours, sectors of energy and mining, postal services, telecommunications, information technology , innovations and oversees of publicly owned enterprises and stimulates the development of information technology training systems. The MED also cooperates with the business community and business associations, aiming to establish an attractive business environment.

> Financial Package

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is backing women entrepreneurs and small businesses in Kosovo, with a financing package to Agency for Finance in Kosovo (AFK), a microfinance institution.

Some €2 million of the loan package will be allocated to supporting investments by women-led businesses. This funding is secured under the EBRD’s Women in Business programme, which promotes women’s entrepreneurship and their participation in business by providing access to finance and know-how.

> Assessment of Financial Needs

The European Investment Bank through the “Assessment of financing needs of the SMEs in Kosovo” identified that micro businesses face financing gaps such as loans and equity finance. Start-up finance is even more limited – with most lenders requiring at least six months of financial statements for loan eligibility. Lacking residential property rights is a major impediment to access finance and SME development in Kosovo, especially for start-ups, women and other enterprises lacking other real estate collateral. Overall, there is still a shortage of financial instruments promoting innovation within MSMEs.

The Economic Reform Programme 2018-2020 stated that the difficulty of accessing finance is not seen as a key structural obstacle anymore. While conditions have improved, obtaining finance remains a major constraint, especially for start-ups and microenterprises. There is the need for Kosovo to follow up on the recommendations from the EU’s ‘Small Business Act’ assessment and introduce regulatory impact assessments to reduce the administrative burden on SMEs. According to SBA Policy Index 2016, SMEs could benefit from targeted support to help them access finance without distorting the market, especially now that credit availability is so restricted in many economies.

> The European Union (EU)

The European Union (EU) aims – to promote entrepreneurship and support the start-up ecosystem in Kosovo.

Prior to the development of multi annual action under IPA Programme, the EU Office in Kosovo carried out a pre-assessment of the needs and current opportunities for start-ups. More specifically, the purpose of the assessment was – to identify the current support packages available to start-ups in Kosovo (at various stages of business development, from the pre-incubation, incubation seed to expansion phase), to identify barriers and obstacles to their growth, to identify potential needs (infrastructure, services and access to finance). The assessment also provided recommendations which are the basis for designing a specific multi-annual action under the IPA programme with the aim of removing barriers and supporting the development of start-ups.

During the implementation of this action, close coordination with the other start-up supporting schemes/programmes was ensured, such as: Promoting women entrepreneurs: the Women in Business Programme in Kosovo could serve as a successful lesson for designing specific programs for start-ups. This programme is funded by the EBRD, Luxembourg, Sweden and the EBRD Shareholder Special Fund.

It has dedicated credit lines of €8 million which has first and second loss risk cover and technical assistance to partner banks. EBRD has designed a loan scheme for supporting female entrepreneurs as a part of their pilot project in region.

> Women Energy Entrepreneurs-WEE

Women Energy Entrepreneurs-WEE is part of the Women in Energy Program – an activity implemented by Millennium Foundation Kosovo, an accountable entity responsible for implementation of the $49 million Threshold agreement, agreed between Republic of Kosovo and Millennium Challenge Corporation in 2017.

MFK’s mission statement calls for accelerating Kosovo’s transition to energy independence and good governance. Kosovo Threshold Program addresses two key constraints to Kosovo’s economic growth: an unreliable supply of electricity; and real and perceived weakness in rule of law, government accountability and transparency.

> “Women in Business” and “Start-Up”

Windows “Women in Business” and “Start-Up” – are two new financial schemes from the Kosovo Credit Guarantee Fund.

The Kosovo Credit Guarantee Fund launched two new financial products dedicated to women in business and Start-ups on April 26, 2023. So, on the seventh anniversary (April 26, 2023) of the establishment of the Kosovo Credit Guarantee Fund, agreements were also signed between the Kosovo Credit Guarantee Fund (KCGF) and registered financial institutions, for the new guarantee windows – “Women in Business” and “Start Ups”.


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