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:

· Increasing business efficiency through facilitating the implementation of eIDAS (electronic IDentification, Authentication and trust Services)

· Provision of digital services for start-ups and MSMEs through establishing a Founder Service at MTI

· Digital transformation of MSMEs through targeted Business Digitalization Services

· Internationalization of Kosovo SMEs through export promotion activities

· Improvement of Business Digitalization Services through certification of consultants

As a result, 200 jobs will be created/maintained, up to 6,000 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 Trade and Industry (MTI), Ministry of Economic Development (MED), Business Consultants Council (BCC), Kosovo Enterprise and Support Agency (KIESA), Kosovo Business Registration Agency (KBRA), Kosovo Chamber of Commerce (KCC), 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 MTI and MED. The Austrian Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs, the Austrian Economic Chamber, the Austrian Institute for SME Research, the Technical University Graz and the Danube University Krems are some of the key partners in this project.

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Initiating the ACCESS project in Kosovo

The ACCESS project focuses on improving market access and linkages of private sector companies, and on enhancing the supply and quality of business development and digitalization services for the benefit of Kosovo MSMEs. In pursuing these goals, the project promotes and harnesses digitalisation processes, considering the importance of the digital transformation for the future competitiveness of the country’s economy.

Some of the main systemic impediments constraining the economic development of Kosovo include an under-developed industrial sector, a weak production base, lack of employment opportunities with high inactivity and unemployment rates, especially for women in general and young women and men,  clear misalignment between education system outcomes and labour market needs, difficulties in obtaining finance, and the lagging behind of the economy’s digitalisation. Therefore, from an overarching strategic perspective, ACCESS’ interventions contribute to further expanding the business sector, fostering growth of private companies, improving the quality of start-ups, and supporting women and young entrepreneurs including, those located in rural and peripheral regions. Furthermore, the project seeks to raise profiles of business consultants, increase availability and quality of BDS services, establish connections with foreign buyers, etc. In terms of digitalization of the public sector, the project will facilitate the provision of e-government business enabling solutions that enable  more transparent, equitable, and inclusive access to public resources.

Inclusive Market System Development (IMSD) is the basic approach used to guide the implementation of this project. The IMSD ensures a systemic and inclusive approach by putting an emphasis on transforming the enabling environment of the market, i.e. on domains where interventions have a catalytic or facilitating impact (e.g. changing behaviour, practices, decisions, or capabilities of players within the system).

Market Assessment for Digitalization Services

Within the activity of Digital Transformation of MSMEs, the ACCESS project initiated a market assessment of digitalization services in Kosovo. This is the first step towards building the Digital Empowerment Initiative, a mechanism that will support MSMEs in digital transformation. The market assessment is based on a quantitative survey of 400 MSMEs across Kosovo, complemented by in-depth qualitative interviews with 20 digital service providers and 20 MSMEs. Main findings of the assessment show that the overall level of digitalization and digital adoption is extremely low, and in some parts of the private sector even inexistent. Digital tools most commonly used by MSMEs include websites, social media marketing, and basic accounting software, while advanced e-commerce platforms, CRM ERP, and optimization and automation tools are still uncommon. The study identified several barriers to MSMEs’ digital transformation such as:

  • Low awareness among MSMEs of the concept of digitalization and the benefits that digital transformation can bring;
  • Predominant export-orientation of local ICT providers, weakly serving the national MSME market;
  • High implementation costs;
  • Lack of internal skills and digital capabilities among MSMEs;
  • Missing qualified consultants to guide local companies through the digital transformation process. 

The market assessment also brings forward specific recommendations on how to build an inclusive and sustainable mechanism that will support Kosovo MSMEs in their digital transformation.



November 2018 – ongoing

Austrian Development Agency