FACT SHEET: Fostering Interventions for Rapid Market Advancement (FIRMA) in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Project Snapshot
Total Funding:  $21 million*
Start Date:  September 2009
End Date:  June 2015
Implementing Partner:   Cardno Emerging Markets
*USAID: $14 million, Sida: $7 million
The Challenge
The economic challenges facing Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) include high unemployment rates (between 24% and 44.5%, and even higher among youth), marginal GDP growth, and a severely contracted domestic and global market. Creating jobs relies on strengthening and expanding small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). BiH enterprises are constrained by outdated designs, inadequate finance for modern equipment and technology, and poor connections to global markets. Lack of qualified skilled workers also limits their ability to expand. Economic development policies for some sectors are lacking or improperly budgeted.
Our Program
The Fostering Interventions for Rapid Market Advancement (FIRMA) project – jointly financed by USAID and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) – supports sustainable economic growth, employment expansion, and increased household incomes in BiH by helping companies better compete in international markets. FIRMA focuses on the BiH wood processing, tourism, and metal processing sectors, which combined comprise about one-fourth of GDP and over one-third of its exports. Supporting 40% of the companies in each sector, FIRMA will increase their sales by 50% and employment by 35% through activities that help them develop new products and improve productivity, access to markets, workforce skills, access to finance, and the business environment.
Implementation and Results
Working through 16 local implementing partners, such as regional development agencies, FIRMA has conducted more than 150 activities to support over 500 companies, 125 of which are women-led organizations.  In the wood and metal sectors, FIRMA helped companies enter new markets in the US, Germany, Sweden, France, and the UK by supporting joint exhibitions at top trade fairs and establishing producer sales agencies in the US and the UK. FIRMA increases their chances of success through newly established Quality Standards funds to help them meet EU market demands.  
FIRMA provides companies with specialized technical assistance in product optimization and training in managerial effectiveness. Working closely with local employment bureaus, vocational schools, and government entities, FIRMA helps ensure companies have a qualified workforce. Through adult retraining and formal vocational curricula development, the project trained 1,500 BiH workers. BiH wood processing companies and designers have won prestigious international design awards, as FIRMA has encouraged stronger connections between young designers and companies. In the tourism sector, FIRMA helped establish the Sarajevo Holiday Market and the Mt. Jahorina-to-Sarajevo bus line, to improve the Sarajevo winter tourism offer, and increased tourism in Herzegovina through promotional activities in Scandinavia. FIRMA beneficiaries have so far marked growth in sales (20%) and exports (25%), and FIRMA helped companies add nearly 1,600 new jobs.
For more information, please visit www.firmaproject.ba or contact:
Dina Karic, Chief of Party, USAID-Sida FIRMA Project (dkaric@firmaproject.ba)
Drazena Peranic, USAID/BiH Development Outreach and Communications Specialist (dperanic@usaid.gov)

Last updated: June 01, 2015

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