N. Macedonia launches €2m development fund to support Roma businesses

Photo: EPA North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev

Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev launched a €2m development fund in partnership with the Roma Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (REDI) to support Roma businesses and address the issue of unemployment in the community. 

The project 'Financial Support for the Development of Roma Entrepreneurship with Matching Fund' aims to create favourable business conditions for Roma entrepreneurs by facilitating easier access to business loans; offering coaching, business development services, and creating new jobs, formalising Roma employment, and harnessing the Roma’s demographic dividend. 

Traditionally, Roma have been declined loan and business investment in Europe because of bad credit history, lack of collateral, lack of proof of business activity and racism. In addition, on average 80% of the mapped Roma entrepreneurs work in the informal sector. In the current COVID climate, one in two Roma entrepreneurs surveyed by REDI worry that they will not be able to pay their rents, and loans if the situation continues for longer than two weeks. Six out of ten businesses owned by Roma fear they will go bankrupt in the next two months in absence of urgent support, especially for their cash flow needs. The help is timely. 

“This Government recognised the potential of Roma entrepreneurship and their contribution for development of Roma community, which is why this first step is important towards building an economically stable community,” Prime Minister Zaev said, launching the initiative.

Investing in Roma would pay high dividends for the Western Balkans, said Zeljko Jovanovic, Director, Roma Initiatives Office of OSF that initiated the creation of REDI.

“There is evidence that Roma exclusion hurts economies in the region and this will only get worse due to the pandemic and demographic trends. Governments now have an opportunity to reverse this trend. Serbia already joined the initiative with an initial investment of one million euro in Roma entrepreneurs, today North Macedonia joins. More Western Balkan governments should sign up to the match funding development initiative,” he said.

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