Supporting Syrian and Turkish entrepreneurs for a better future – Türkiye
A recently completed World Bank pilot project, Business and Entrepreneurship Development for Syrians under Temporary Protection and Turkish Citizens, demonstrated that targeted and multi-faceted programs for entrepreneurs can help create jobs in small and medium-sized enterprises. Thanks to various support mechanisms (mentoring, training and equipment) put in place for the two communities, 16 Syrian entrepreneurs, including six women, have created new businesses in viable sectors. In addition, 50 SMEs (26 Turkish and 24 owned by Syrian refugees) exceeding the project target of supporting 34 SMEs received financial support. A number of 125 jobs were created in existing and newly created companies.
In 2022, Turkey hosts the largest refugee population in the world, with around 4 million refugees, of which more than 3.7 million are Syrians under Temporary Protection (SuTP). The arrival of Syrian refugees is straining social services and increasing competition for jobs, housing and social services. But the government in Türkiye has facilitated their access to essential public services such as education, health and infrastructure and granted displaced Syrians access to services and formal employment. However, the capacity of provinces like Gaziantep, the pilot city of the project with a strong presence of SuTP, to absorb the large influx of SuTP 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, focusing on promoting economic self-reliance, improving access to basic services, and piloting a response mechanism to support both refugees and host communities. The project aimed to support the growth of small and medium-sized 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 has 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 creation of new refugee-led businesses. These companies were designed as incubators, emphasizing market access, customer analysis and business competitiveness. Under the second window, KOSGEB provided existing businesses – Turkish and Syrian-led – with a mix of technological inputs, such as equipment and software, as well as KOSGEB’s expertise. This approach aimed to create new jobs for Syrian refugees and Turkish citizens.
The project has supported businesses in a wide range of sectors, from shoemaking and baklava production to medical equipment manufacturing and computer programming. The project leveraged existing KOSGEB support programs with tailored interventions to promote SuTP participation, such as translation of KOSGEB training modules into Arabic and English for non-Turks, identification of specific vulnerable target groups and the development of a model for targeting and selecting beneficiaries. .
The preliminary evaluation of the pilot project program indicates that companies have largely benefited from financial support, particularly to strengthen their technological capacities and hire technical personnel to put the new equipment into service. All beneficiary companies used funds for the purchase of machines, one-third of them obtained additional software, and two-thirds hired inexperienced workers who received on-the-job training to overcome the main bottleneck. throttling of required manpower.
The expanded technical capacity has prompted companies to increase their production capacity through additional private investment. A beneficiary enterprise producing hospital equipment received equipment support from the project and increased its workforce from 20-30 to 130. Another enterprise in the footwear industry increased its total sales from 4 million TL to 5 million TL per year despite the difficulties imposed by the pandemic. Companies have also improved their institutional and market penetration capacities, both in foreign and domestic markets. About 75% of successful companies hired professional department heads outside of their family during project implementation. Greater market participation, adaptation to local preferences and greater professionalism in developing their business strategy seem to be the main results for companies.
In addition to increased business capacity, the project has a longer-term impact regarding the economic inclusion of SuTPs and Turkish citizens in the formal labor market. The project is based on KOSGEB’s existing programs and services for entrepreneurship and project support, which have been adapted for the use of SuTPs. The one-on-one follow-up and advisory services provided by local KOSGEB staff to the businesses helped to quickly identify business needs and priorities. Through this close interaction, SuTP companies in particular have increased their experience by engaging in a formal dialogue with a public agency – which builds vulnerable communities’ trust in legal frameworks, increases their confidence in applying for such grants in the future and generates jobs in the local economy. The effective intervention of KOSGEB, a public agency with the institutional mandate to provide such programs, ensured the sustainability and scalability of this pilot project, contributing to the promotion of formal employment and entrepreneurship for vulnerable communities. .
The following results were achieved between 2019 and 2021:
60 SuTP candidates have successfully completed entrepreneurship training, 26 entrepreneurs have been identified for further support, of which 16 entrepreneurs, including six women, have received the “business creation support” (employment support , start-up advances, machinery, equipment, and software financing and technical support) to establish their businesses.
50 existing Turkish and Syrian companies received equipment, software and expertise, exceeding the project target of 34.
125 new jobs were created for SuTP and Turkish citizens.
KOSGEB’s capacity to design, deliver and monitor entrepreneurship services has been strengthened through trainings focused on project management and working in a refugee context.
KOSGEB’s entrepreneurship trainings in Turkish were produced for the Arabic-speaking communities of this project and made available to 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 businesses. She had worked as a freelancer until she set up her business with support from the project, which provided software and equipment for her business.
“I studied Arabic literature in Syria, but technology, especially computer programming, was my passion. At the beginning, we continued to work even if we encountered some difficulties, like in any newly created company. Now, two years after the start of the project, we live from our own business and the future looks bright for us.
Baris Ozbicki, owner of a medical manufacturing company, received a digital robotic production line that allows his company to produce medical products faster and with better quality. His team, in turn, provided technical support to improve the skills of Syrian employees working in the company. As a result, the company’s production capacity increased by 40%. Technical support from the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Organization (KOSGEB), the project’s executing agency, helped “develop the capacities of our employees, in compliance with industry standards”, said Baris. “We have taken our business to a global level in two years. We are now confident to compete with other overseas companies.
Contribution of the World Bank Group
The World Bank administered the $2 million European Union (EU) Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRiT) grant and provided implementation and technical support to the implementing agency , KOSGEB.
The project was funded by a grant of €1.84 million (approximately $2 million) from the European Union (EU) Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRiT) and implemented by KOSGEB. KOSGEB worked closely with local stakeholders including municipalities, business associations (Gaziantep Chamber of Commerce and Chamber of Industry), universities (Gaziantep University) and NGOs (Turkish Red Crescent ).
With the completion of this pilot project, KOSGEB demonstrated its implementation capacity and was selected as the implementing agency for a larger entrepreneurship project approved under the second tranche of FRiT.