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Roadmap to support female entrepreneurship launched in North Macedonia

By Svitlana  Pyrkalo

An EBRD-funded study on encouraging female entrepreneurship in North Macedonia, entitled “Roadmap for a Gender-Responsive Investment Climate”, was launched in Skopje today.

The launch event was opened by the Minister of Economy for North Macedonia, Kreshnik Bekteshi. Participants included the EBRD, the National Bank of the Republic of North Macedonia, policymakers, business representatives and civil society.

The Roadmap, developed by Marija Risteska under the umbrella of the Western Balkans Women in Business (WiB) programme, will inform policymakers and other stakeholders of ways to increase female entrepreneurship. In particular, it recommends:

  • mainstreaming gender in investment policy – investment policies need to include gender objectives and criteria, and direct support to sectors where women-led and women-owned companies operate
  • developing support services for companies owned and led by women – this includes  start-up services like incubators and accelerators that integrate a gender perspective into their operations or provide specific services for women-led and women-owned businesses
  • improving access to finance and markets for women-led and women-owned companies – this could include measures such as digitalisation, gendered taxation, including gender criteria in subsidies, grant and loan schemes, as well as opening a window for women-led or owned companies in the country’s new Guarantee Fund, which supports finance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and traders.

Aneta Krstevska, Chief Economist at the National Bank of the Republic of North Macedonia, commented: "The new Roadmap adds to work previously done by the National Bank and other financial regulators during preparation of the first National Strategy for Financial Education and Inclusion 2021-2025, which detected gender-related and other gaps in financial education and inclusion, and identified action points. North Macedonia is committed to improving opportunities for female entrepreneurship together with our partners."

These comments were echoed by Andi Aranitasi, EBRD Head of North Macedonia: “The Roadmap shows how the EBRD’s approach to policy dialogue is directed towards improving the entrepreneurial ecosystem for women in business. More specifically, the EBRD will seek to close the financial gender gap by working with partner financial institutions to help them improve sex-disaggregated data collection, analysis and awareness-raising, as well as build capacity to break gender stereotypes in lending.”

The Roadmap points out that, despite the country’s well-developed policy and legal framework, women are still under-represented among North Macedonia’s business leaders, owning only a third of the country’s businesses. Women-led businesses are also consistently smaller and less represented among sectors with higher growth potential, and are often trapped in the segment of small and micro enterprises, accounting for just a small fraction of certain economic activities, such as trade and services.

Support for women in business

The EBRD has long supported women in accessing entrepreneurship opportunities, most prominently through its Women in Business (WiB) programme. The programme, active in 24 economies, has to date provided €900 million in financing and business advice to more than 100,000 women-led SMEs and 58 partner financial institutions.

Since launching the WiB programme in the Western Balkans in 2014 – the first such programme in the region – the EBRD has provided more than €60 million to its partner financial institutions for on-lending to women-led SMEs. This, together with the wide range of advisory, training, mentoring and network-building activities the EBRD provides, has helped more than 7,500 women entrepreneurs to develop and grow their businesses. In the Western Balkans, 12 banks and financial institutions have so far joined the programme.

In North Macedonia, the WiB programme is available through NLB Banka and Ohridska Banka. Advisory services under the programme are supported by donor funds from Sweden and Luxembourg.

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