ACCESS implements a series of facilitating interventions that respond to market constraints that hinder pro-poor growth in Kosovo’s market systems. The interventions are tailored to trigger systemic changes in behaviors, capabilities and relationships of key market system actors that benefit people living in poverty. The Inclusive Market System Development (IMSD) approach guides this project towards delivering the outcomes, facilitating stakeholders’ activities and delivering systemic impact.

The main factors preventing market access and inclusive market development in Kosovo are related to limited enterprise growth opportunities, weak economic and business governance, lack of access to BDS, lack of access to and cost of finance, traditional attitudes that do not favor women in business, etc. Poverty reduction requires providing physical access to markets, remedying failures in markets that make it difficult for people to obtain the resources needed to invest and innovate. Systemic change in the market is required to tackle these challenges and is at the center of this project.

The overall objective is to reduce poverty and exclusion of the poor in Kosovo owing to higher incomes and employment opportunities in more sustainable market systems. ACCESS contributes to strengthening competitiveness of private sector companies and increasing their income through reliable market access and stronger regional and cross-border linkages. Such measures will increase productivity and profitability due to diversified and improved business development and digitalization services (BDS). Key institutional stakeholders throughout Kosovo will be supported to improve and adapt their services and policies to ensure sustainability and inclusion of the poor. The expected outputs are:

1. Relevant new digital tools and services are available to and used by Kosovo’s Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)
2. Kosovo MSMEs improve their digitalization level and establish market linkages
3. Business consultants provide effective and affordable digitalization services to MSMEs.

With measures aiming at granting access to new markets, improving gender-equal access to BDS services and market information as well supporting the business formalization, the project tackles barriers and also promotes several facets of women’s empowerment in business and entrepreneurship. Project activities include:

1. Increasing business efficiency through facilitating e-commerce, e-IDAS, and cybersecurity.
2. Provision of digital services for start-ups and MSMEs through establishing a Founder Service at MIET.
3. Digital transformation of MSMEs through the provision of targeted Business Digitalization Services.
4. Internationalization of Kosovo SMEs through export promotion and market access activities.
5. Improvement of Business Digitalization Services through certification of consultants.

As a result, 150 jobs will be created/maintained, up to 4,800 private sector companies, their employees, and the wider (poor) population in Kosovo will benefit from project activities. Further beneficiaries are government and business support institutions such as Ministry of Industry, Entrepreneurship and Trade (MIET), Ministry of Economy (ME), Business Consultants Council (BCC), Kosovo Enterprise and Support Agency (KIESA), Kosovo Business Registration Agency (KBRA) etc.

ACCESS has started in November 2018 with an eight-month inception phase. The 36-month implementation phase commenced on 1 July 2019. The project is implemented by ECIKS, funded by the Austrian Development Agency and co-funded by MIET and ME. The Austrian Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKO), the Austrian Institute for SME Research, the Technical University Graz and the Danube University Krems are some of the key partners in this project.