Supporting Kosovo Growth: The role of the ICT sector

While most of the Eastern European countries are racing to keep up with the latest trends and remain competitive in the ICT sector, Kosovo is the one leading the race. According to the latest study done by the Kosovo Statistics Agency, access to the internet across Kosovo has greatly grown in the last years, making it one of the countries with the highest percentage of internet access in households (93%).

The ICT sector in Kosovo is one of the most developed and most promising sectors for generating economic growth. Given its potential, the Government of Kosovo has recognized and listed the ICT sector among the six top priority sectors that contribute to economic development. Apart from that, the sector has proven to be a highly promising sector for generating new jobs for young male and female entrepreneurs as well as for increasing the overall level of the country’s exports. In fact, the ICT sector is among the few sectors within the Kosovo economy that is characterized by a positive trade balance, whereby around 78% of already existing companies export their services.

Looking forward, Kosovo is expected to become an even more attractive country for foreign companies in terms of ICT services. Having one of the youngest populations in Europe (53% being under 25 years old), Kosovo is currently home to approximately 350 ICT graduates each year and this number is expected to grow substantially in the forthcoming years. Its skilled and experienced workforce, as well as the suitable geographical area and time zone, have made it a target for many foreign companies and investors.

Despite the huge potential and good performance of this sector in terms of exports, the challenges still remain existent. According to a study done by STIKK, Kosovo‘s ICT Association that represents 90% of the ICT Sector, one of the main obstacles that most of companies have rated as problematic is visa requirements and lack of business contacts in foreign markets. The unjustified prolongation of the process of visa liberalization for Kosovo has been a major impediment to the internationalization of Kosovo’s businesses. The visa application process itself constitutes a long waiting time along with the submission of multiple documents, which at the end are not a guarantee that the visa will be issued. For businesses, this presents a hindrance, given the meetings, conferences, workshops they intent to attend. Therefore, as a first step, measures towards addressing such an issue need to be undertaken, so companies can compete internationally and expand their exporting potentials.

In this context, the “Market Access and Business Digitalization Services for Kosovo Companies (ACCESS)” project, as part of its intervention scheme, foresees to improve market access and networking opportunities for Kosovo ICT service providers. The project will facilitate the update of the Kosovo Exporters Directory with additional export-ready ICT service providers and promote the database in international markets. The database will serve as a point of reference for international companies who wish to do business with Kosovo ICT companies. The overall objective of the project is to contribute towards strengthening private sector companies’ competitiveness and increase their income through reliable market access and stronger regional and cross-border linkages.

The ICT sector in Kosovo presents a bright future with huge potential for development. While there are several initiatives already going on for further-developing this sector, there is still a lot to be done, so that this sector becomes the main engine that drives economic revenues for the country.