Supporting Syrian and Turkish Entrepreneurs for a Better Future – Türkiye
A recently completed World Bank pilot project, Development of Businesses and Entrepreneurship for Syrians under Temporary Protection and Turkish Citizens demonstrated that targeted, multi-faceted programs for entrepreneurs can help create jobs in small and medium enterprises. With the provision of diverse support mechanisms (mentorship, training and equipment) put in place for both communities, 16 Syrian entrepreneurs, of whom six were women, established new businesses in viable sectors. In addition, 50 SMEs (26 Turkish and 24 owned by Syrian refugees) surpassing the project target of supporting 34 SMEs received financial support. A number of 125 jobs were created in existing and newly established firms.
In 2022, Türkiye hosts the world’s largest refugee population, with about 4 million refugees, of whom more than 3.7 million are Syrians under Temporary Protection (SuTP). The arrival of Syrian refugees places a strain on social services, and increased competition for employment, housing and social services. But the Government of Türkiye has facilitated their access to critical public services such as education, health and infrastructure and granted displaced Syrians with access to services and to formal employment. However, the capacity of provinces like Gaziantep, the project’s pilot city with a high presence of SuTPs, to absorb the large influx of SuTPs is limited and they need support to access social services and employment.
The World Bank supported the Turkish government’s response to the humanitarian and development challenges of the Syrian refugee crisis, with a focus on promoting economic self-reliance, increasing access to basic services, and piloting an intervention mechanism to support both refugees and host communities. The project sought to support the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and increase employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for Syrians under Temporary Protection (SuTP) and Turkish citizens in the pilot province of Gaziantep. The project established two windows with calls for proposals. Under the first window, the Turkish Small and Medium Enterprises Development Organization (KOSGEB), a public institution responsible for increasing the share of SMEs and entrepreneurs in economic and social development, provided technical and financial support to facilitate the establishment of new firms led by Syrian refugees. These firms were designed as incubators, with a focus on market access, customer analysis, and business competitiveness. Under the second window, KOSGEB provided existing enterprises – both Turkish- and Syrian-led – with a mix of technological inputs, such as equipment and software, as well as KOSGEB expertise. This approach aimed to create new jobs for both Syrian refugees and Turkish citizens.
The project supported enterprises in a wide range of sectors, from shoemaking and baklava production to medical equipment manufacturing and computer programming. The project leveraged KOSGEB’s existing support programs with tailored interventions to promote participation of SuTPs, such as translating KOSGEB’s training modules into Arabic and English for non-Turkish speakers, identifying the specific needs of vulnerable target groups, and developing a model for targeting and selecting beneficiaries.
The preliminary program assessment of the pilot project indicates that the firms significantly benefited from financial support, in particular to enhance their technological capacities and hire technical staff to put the new equipment to use. All beneficiary firms have used funds in the purchase of the machinery, one third of them got additional software, and two-thirds hired inexperienced workers who were provided on-the-job training to overcome the key bottleneck in required manpower.
The extended technical capacity gave the firms an incentive to expand production capacity with additional private investment. A beneficiary firm producing hospital equipment received equipment support from the project and it increased its workforce from 20-30 to 130. Another firm in the shoe-making industry increased total sales from TL 4 million to TL 5 million annually despite the hardship imposed by the pandemic. The firms also improved their institutional and market penetration capacities, both in foreign markets and domestically. About 75 percent of the successful firms hired professional departmental managers outside their families during project implementation. Greater market involvement, adaptation to local preferences, and more professionalism in developing their business strategy seem to be the major outcomes for firms.
In addition to the firms’ increased capacity, the project has a longer-term impact with respect to economic inclusion of SuTPs and Turkish citizens in formal job market. The project is founded on KOSGEB’s existing entrepreneurship and project support programs and services — which were adapted for the use of SuTPs. The one-to-one monitoring and advisory services provided by KOSGEB local personnel to the firms, helped rapid identification of business needs and priorities. Thanks to this close interaction, SuTP firms in particular, increased their experience in engaging in an official dialogue with a public agency – which strengthens the vulnerable communities’ trust to legal frameworks, increasing their confidence in applying for such grants in the future and generate formal jobs in the local economy. Efficient intervention of KOSGEB, a public agency whose institutional mandate is to deliver such programs, ensured sustainability and scalability of this pilot project, contributing to promotion of formal jobs and entrepreneurship for vulnerable communities.
The following results were achieved between 2019 and 2021:
60 SuTP candidates successfully completed entrepreneurship training, 26 entrepreneurs were identified for further support out of which 16 of the entrepreneurs, of whom six were women, received the ‘start-up business support’ (employment support, start-up advances, machinery, equipment, and software funding as well as technical support) to establish their businesses.
50 existing Turkish- and Syrian-led enterprises were provided with equipment, software, and expertise, surpassing the project target of 34.
125 new jobs were created for SuTP and Turkish citizens.
KOSGEB’s capacity for designing, delivering and monitoring of entrepreneurship services was strengthened through the trainings with a focus on project management and working in refugee context.
KOSGEB’s entrepreneurship trainings in Turkish were produced for Arabic-speaking communities in this project and made available for SuTPs
Aidah Alwani, a Syrian beneficiary of the project, provides 3D design services in the textile sector and develops e-commerce websites and mobile applications for companies. She had worked as a freelancer until she established her business with support from the project, which provided software and equipment for her firm.
“I studied Arabic Literature in Syria, but technology, especially computer programming, was my passion. At first, we continued to work even though we faced some difficulties, as in any newly established business. Now, two years after the project started, we make our living from our own business and the future is promising for us.”
Baris Ozbicki, owner of a medical manufacturing firm, received a digital robot production line which enables his firm to produce medical products more quickly and with better quality. His team, in turn, provided technical support to improve the skills of the Syrian employees working in the firm. As a result, the firm’s production capacity has increased by 40 percent. Technical support from the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Organization (KOSGEB), the implementing agency for the project, helped “develop the capacities of our employees, in line with industry standards,” said Baris. “We took our business to a global level within two years. We now have confidence in ourselves to compete with other firms abroad.”
World Bank Group Contribution
The World Bank administered the $2 million European Union (EU) Facility for Refugees in Türkiye (FRiT) grant and provided implementation and technical support to the implementing agency, KOSGEB.
The project was financed with a €1.84 million grant (approximately $2 million) from the European Union (EU) Facility for Refugees in Türkiye (FRiT) and implemented by KOSGEB. KOSGEB worked closely with local stakeholders including municipalities, business associations (the Gaziantep Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Industry), academia (Gaziantep University), and NGOs (Turkish Red Crescent).
Through the completion of this pilot project, KOSGEB demonstrated its capacity for implementation, and was selected as the implementation agency of a larger entrepreneurship project approved under the second tranche of FRiT.
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