Study Of The Challenges That Hinder MSME Development In FYR Macedonia : Country Report for the British Council and Swedish Institute
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (to be referred to as FYR Macedonia from herein) is a landlocked country. It has made considerable progress since 2000 and the end of the Balkan Wars, but would still greatly benefit from raising its rate of economic growth. It has an interesting population profile with a dip in the economically important 25–34 years age range. We undertook a survey of aspiring entrepreneurs across FYR Macedonia. The sample was largely self-selected based on previous telephone surveys where respondents had expressed an interest in entrepreneurship, plus a review of the commercial register and referrals from respondents. The age distribution of aspiring entrepreneurs was under represented in younger age groups but higher in the 25–34 year old group compared with the population. Increased economic growth needs to be achieved against a background of relatively modest inflows of foreign direct investment, and disappointingly flat levels of gross domestic capital formation, contrasting with sustained increases in consumption. There has been significant progress in stabilising the trade balance. FYR Macedonia has a significant informal economy, a sizeable unemployment rate and a worrying loss of skills as qualified people migrate overseas. There have been sustained efforts to improve the skills training systems, but the vocational training system still needs support. Entrepreneurship aspirations are positive. There are few problems with structural issues such as ease of forming a company, although important regulatory simplifications (for example in property registration) are still needed. Five key issues stand out: 1. Access to finance is very challenging and acts as a significant barrier to both innovation and entrepreneurship. There is a particular need for access to affordable seed capital. This is a similar to the challenge being addressed by some of the rural micro-finance programs in Asia. 2. Connection to markets outside FYR Macedonia and the Western Balkans region is challenging for new entrepreneurs. 3. There is a considerable amount of energy and effort already being injected, but significant scope for improving the skills of entrepreneurial teams. 4. There may be a need to raise the entrepreneurial appetite of young people (under 25 years old). 5. FYR Macedonia seems to have incubated a significant number of opportunity-seeking entrepreneurs, rather than involuntary entrepreneurs seeking family incomes, but the support structure is limited. They might benefit from a focused event to bring together industries from across FYR Macedonia.