Belgrade, Serbia, March 16, 2021—IFC is launching a digital platform that will increase connections between firms in the Western Balkans and regional and global value chains, part of IFC's efforts to create jobs and support the region's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Implemented in partnership with the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO, the initiative is part of an IFC advisory program in Serbia, Kosovo, and North Macedonia that is expected to facilitate $45 million in financing for manufacturing firms. This also includes $5 million in foreign direct investments and support to increase higher valued added jobs. COVID-19 has put pressure on manufacturers across the Western Balkans and the program is designed to create new opportunities for firms, speeding the recovery from the pandemic.
"Today, manufacturing is the second-largest employing sector in all Southeast European countries and the third-largest contributor to gross domestic product. It is estimated that light manufacturing provides jobs for 200,000 people in Serbia alone, and over 70 percent of this employment is generated by small and medium enterprises (SMEs)," said Liliana de Sá Kirchknopf, Head of SECO's Private Sector Development Division. "By promoting the economic integration of the Western Balkans' manufacturing sector both within the region and with global value chains, SECO aims to contribute to the creation of more and better jobs for local workers and increased sales revenue for SMEs."
Manufacturers from the Western Balkans have been attempting to enter global supply chains for the last decade, but not all have the capacity and skills to forge connections with international firms. This new digital platform linking manufacturers to investors, buyers, and suppliers is being developed together with United Kingdom-based Achilles, a global supplier of sourcing platforms. The program will focus on domestic manufacturers in a variety of sectors, including automotive, industrial machinery, agricultural machinery, and light manufacturing.
"As we exit the COVID-19 crisis, the Western Balkans have an opportunity to attract fresh private investment, create skilled jobs, and raise incomes," said Ary Naïm, IFC Regional Manager for Central and Southeast Europe. '' With this Program we aim to connect small and medium enterprises from the region with global and regional value chains, helping them improve competitiveness and grow faster."
IFC—a member of the World Bank Group—is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. We work in more than 100 countries, using our capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in developing countries. In fiscal year 2020, we invested $22 billion in private companies and financial institutions in developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. For more information, visit www.ifc.org.
SECO is Switzerland's competence center for all core issues relating to economic policy. SECO's economic development cooperation strives to achieve inclusive sustainable growth and poverty reduction in its partner countries. Its activities aim to create more and better jobs, to enhance trade and competitiveness, to support effective institutions and services and to foster climate resilient economies. For more information, visit www.seco-cooperation.admin.ch.