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Regional Access to Finance Event for Women Entrepreneurs from Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania

BACKGROUND

Within CEED Macedonia’s and USAID REG’s cooperation in the field of women entrepreneurship, a Regional event on Access to Finance for Women Entrepreneurs was organized in Skopje on June 22nd, 2016. Women entrepreneurs from Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania were invited and took part.

This specific event was organized in partnership with EBRD and the Association of Business Women in Macedonia (ABW) who had different roles in the process. EBRD participated both financially and through recruiting women entrepreneurs from Kosovo and Macedonia. ABW contributed through recruiting women entrepreneurs from Kosovo and Albania.

Representatives of different organizations, funds, saving houses and banks were invited to present the programs they offer to entrepreneurs in this field. All 13 organizations that were invited accepted the invitation and sent their representatives.

PARTICIPANTS

For this event, participants were invited through CEED’s, EBRD’s and ABW’s networks in the region, who have either offices, or partners and collaborators in all three countries.

As a result, 85 participants came to the event, representatives of companies and relevant organizations from all three countries. More specifically, the division of participants by countries was as follows:

Since our planned target number of participants for this event was somewhere from 60 to 80, and since the response rate to the invitation was much bigger, we had to inform the “late-birds” that there might not be free sits in the room. As a result, some of the interested companies did not come (due to space limitation). We also had to add additional chairs during the event, since the optimal capacity and number of chairs in the room were 80, and this number was exceeded. Attached to this report as separate document called Annex 1 is the list of attendees.

PURPOSE AND CONTENT OF THE EVENT

The purpose of the event was to offer comprehensive and specific information on the existing opportunities for financing women led businesses in the region, more specifically opportunities relevant for Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania businesses. The idea was to give them first-hand concrete information on the existing opportunities, tool and mechanisms, the way they can be utilized and the conditions that have to be fulfilled by the companies.

A total number of 13 presentations have been delivered during the event by 14 speakers from 13 different organizations (funds, banks, savings houses, projects). The program has been divided in two sessions: morning and afternoon sessions. In the first half of the day, Vesna Kardalevska from CEED Macedonia welcomed the guests and opened the event, followed by a short introduction by Vesna Disoska from ABW who briefly spoke about the importance of the regional cooperation. Then, the program of the day was briefly presented by Ana Trpovska from CEED who was moderating the event. Four programs for financing women led business were presented in the first half of the day: EBRD’s programs in Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo, Ohridska bank’s representative spoke about the cooperation with EBRD and the credit line they have for women entrepreneurs, two representatives of Pro Credit Bank spoke about their services for entrepreneurs as well as about their cooperation with USAID on the Innovation Fund, and finally the representative of the CEED Business Angels Club spoke about the opportunities for financing business through the club.

The morning session was followed by a one-hour lunch break which was also intended for networking with the representatives of the funding organizations. Their representatives wore name tags so that they could be easily recognized and approached by the entrepreneurs.

During the afternoon session, seven presentations have been delivered about seven different opportunities: EBRD’s ENEF fund has been briefly presented, the funds South Central Ventures operates for IT related businesses, available SEAF Macedonia II Fund presented by SEAF investment fund representative, Crimson Capital Macedonia, Kosovo Credit Guarantee Fund by representative of USAID by Empower Credit Support Project – Kosovo, and at the end, representatives of the two biggest savings houses in Macedonia and the region – Moznosti and FULM. Attached as Annex 2 is the agenda of the event.

Both the morning and the afternoon sessions included 15 minutes block for questions from the audience (addressed to the speakers within the respective session). During the first block, representative of the Women in Business Association in Albania delivered a short speech on the

importance of this kind of events and the regional cooperation and exchange of information. Also, several questions have been addressed to the speakers in both blocks, and the questions continued during the lunch break.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

This was one of the most successful events we have organized so far in cooperation with REG. The interest was very big (much bigger than the capacity of the room planned for this event), attendance was also numerous from all three countries, a really big number of financing opportunities were presented at the event, the feed-back by the participants was excellent, the media presence was also very good. Bearing in mind how big the interest for participation was, we should definitely consider organizing similar events in the future and in other countries as well, plus target and plan bigger rooms for more participants. Attached as Annex 3 to this report are the evaluations grades by the participants.