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Serbia’s economy is constrained both by the economic crisis in the EU and by critical barriers to growth. Improvements to the business enabling environment are needed to stimulate growth. The private sector needs to improve its ability to compete in international markets, and an increased number of jobs are needed to combat high unemployment, especially in vulnerable communities. USAID works with selected government counterparts, non-governmental organizations, international donors, and other U.S. agencies to advance economic reforms that will contribute to business growth, to strengthen the capacity of municipalities to stimulate local economic development by better meeting the needs of businesses and the market, and to improve the competitiveness of the private sector, especially in economically disadvantaged regions.

Current programs that contribute to Serbia’s overall economic development include:

Business Enabling Project

The USAID Business Enabling Project is a seven-year initiative launched in January 2011. The project helps the Government of Serbia (GoS) increase the competitiveness of the Serbian economy and its private sector by streamlining the business enabling environment, improving public financial management, and strengthening financial markets. Project activities are based on priorities identified by the private sector and the GoS.

For more information, please see: http://www.bep.rs/

Sustainable Local Economic Development Project

USAID’s Sustainable Local Development Project is a five-year plan to work with municipalities, businesses and civil society organizations (CSOs) to improve public services and stimulate local economies. The USAID model focuses on cooperative regional solutions rather than a municipality-by-municipality approach to solving problems. USAID is establishing and strengthening Inter-Municipal Cooperation (IMC) partnerships that will raise public, private and donor funding for inter-municipal projects selected by local communities, businesses and CSOs.

For more information, please see: http://www.lokalnirazvoj.rs/index.html

Private Sector Development Project

USAID’s Private Sector Development Project (PSDP) is a four-year, $7-million activity to strengthen private sector firms in 12 municipalities in the economically devastated regions of south and southwest Serbia. The project was launched in July 2013. 

The project is being implemented by the National Agency for Regional Development (NARD) through its network of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). The RDAs in Novi Pazar, Uzice, Kraljevo and Leskovac, in cooperation with the Vranje Small Business Agency, will help growth-oriented companies and business clusters increase sales and exports and create jobs.

This is the first time that USAID Serbia is directly partnering with a Government of Serbia entity for the implementation of a USAID program. This USAID Government-to-Government program is one of the first and most complex in all of southeast Europe.

USAID will build the capacity of NARD and the RDAs to run the program by providing support in areas such as program management, monitoring and evaluation, providing export market assessment tools, etc.

For more information please see: www.narr.gov.rs

Opportunity Bank Serbia

Opportunity Bank Serbia (OBS) is a community bank that provides micro, rural, agro and small and medium-enterprise (SME) lending to clients that cannot ordinarily access financial services from traditional banks. Clients are typically from semi-urban and rural areas of Serbia. The bank specializes in loans to dual-income cottage industries and the agricultural sector.

OBS’s mission is to help create jobs, stimulate small businesses and enable the economic transformation of its clients. With a strategically developed branch network, OBS utilizes field-based client advisors (loan officers) to reach clients in remote areas.

USAID has provided financial support totaling $11.96-million to Opportunity International to create a sustainable financial institution in Serbia.

For more information, please see: http://www.obs.rs/en/

Small Enterprise Assistance Fund (SEAF)

The Small Enterprise Assistance Fund is a global investment firm focused on providing growth capital and operational support to businesses in emerging markets that are underserved by traditional sources of capital. SEAF selectively makes structured debt and equity investments in locally owned enterprises with high growth potential. Based in Washington D.C., SEAF invests in more than 18 countries around the world through an international network of 24 active private equity funds in Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia.

For more information, please see: http://seaf.com/


Competitivness Support Project

The National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED) will work over a 2-year period to improve the business enabling environment by combatting the shadow economy and by utilizing brownfield sites to create inspiring spaces in which businesses can operate.

For more information, please see: www.naled-serbia.org

Workforce Development project/ ICT HUB

USAID has partnered with two successful Serbian companies, Orion Telekom and DNA Advertising, on a 20-month program to generate new jobs and promote entrepreneurship by establishing an information and communication technologies hub for software developers. Other project partners include the Serbian Association of Managers and the Serbian Private Equity Association.

For more information, please see: http://icthub.rs/

Junior Achievement Serbia: You Can Change the Future

Junior Achievement Serbia (JAS) is the only accredited provider of entrepreneurship education services in Serbia. It is a locally managed and funded entity affiliated with JA Worldwide, a global organization founded 1919 in the USA. The overall goal of JAS is to enable the private sector to take an active role in preparing and inspiring the youth of Serbia to become contributing members of the society and to educate young people in the field of entrepreneurship, financial literacy and business. Since 2005, JAS served more than 60,000 elementary and high school students coached by 900 JAS-trained teachers in 278 schools throughout Serbia. In the school year 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 alone, JAS programs involved more than 20,000 students. Through training in business and soft skills and practical real-life scenarios in which students establish and run their own companies, JAS increases youth employability and brings the education and business community closer together.  The overarching goal is to strengthen Serbia’s businesses and economy by creating a broad-minded generation capable of succeeding in a knowledge-based economy. 

For more information, please see: www.ja-serbia.org

Women Education Center 

USAID’s Women Education Center (WEC) is a two-year workforce development public-private partnership with Insert, Ltd., Everest, Ltd., and the Municipality of Ruma. The center provides vocational training to women to improve the quality of their skills to reflect the needs of industries in the Srem district.  By doing so, the center provides industries with a labor force that is able to meet market demands, providing for growth in export-oriented industries such a shoes, leather, and furniture. 

For more information, please see: http://shop.shoestar.rs/

The New Beginning project

To bolster its economy and meet EU accession requirements, Serbia must restructure and privatize many of its state-owned enterprises. The Serbian Government’s program for companies in the restructuring process encompasses more than 500 companies in different phases of privatization. It is expected that approximately 30,000 workers will accept the program and take the severance pay (maximum amount 8,000 EUR). 

“The New Beginning” is an 18-month project implemented by Serbian Association of Managers (SAM) and DNA Communications. The activity will focus on regions with the largest numbers of laid-off workers and will motivate them to use their knowledge and resources to start their own business.  The experiences of the previous severance programs clearly show that redundant workers have a lack of knowledge about how to start their own businesses and about entrepreneurship. This project will give them an opportunity for a “new beginning” by starting their own business.

For more information, please see: www.sam.org.rs

Last updated: July 21, 2015

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