ILO Organizes Event to discuss entrepreneurship promotion and the development of an inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystem in Sarajevo

On the 16th and 17th of November 2023, the ILO organized the conference Entrepreneurship in BiH: Balance Sheet 2023. The event was organized within the framework of the EU4Business Recovery project - for a strong domestic economy, financed by the European Union and the government of the Federal Republic of Germany, and implemented by GIZ, ILO and UNDP.

The conference focused on key topics and challenges in the field of entrepreneurship ecosystem development and presented the results of interventions implemented across Bosnia and Herzegovina, including SIYB activities and the study “Women and youth in Sarajevo entrepreneurship ecosystem” conducted by ILO between 2021 and 2022.

The conference provided a platform to showcase the work that ILO has done in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the past years in the field of entrepreneurship promotion, to reunite key stakeholders of the entrepreneurship ecosystem and to strengthen the SIYB network in the country. The presentation about the ILO’s Inclusive Entrepreneurship Ecosystem methodology raised awareness about the importance of adopting a holistic approach to entrepreneurship promotion and addressing the root causes of the key constraints of the ecosystem for the inclusion of women and youth. It also raised interest in sustainably implementing the recommendations of the study.

The conference was preceded with the 4-year effort of ILO on improving the entrepreneurship ecosystem of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Starting in 2020, ILO provided training and the certification for 14 SIYB trainers, which in the subsequent years resulted in delivering SIYB training to over 1,200 beneficiaries. As a result, more than 500 SIYB-trained entrepreneurs registered their businesses with further technical support of ILO, including IYB training, mentoring, and networking facilitation.

Becoming aware of the advantages of SIYB, several local institutions – cities, municipalities, and universities - integrated SIYB in regular teaching and practices of own entrepreneurship incentive programs. Further, over 100 entrepreneurs – beneficiaries of the SIYB training, established SIYB Alumni as a mechanism for information and knowledge sharing and peer learning.

The Conference was important opportunity to share and summarize experiences and discuss opportunities for future actions among institutions, entrepreneurs, international organizations, and other ecosystem stakeholders.

When we started developing a new model of support for entrepreneurship at the end of 2019, we set high goals, aware that we are the most developed local community in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We felt the obligation to be leaders, not only in our country, but also in the entire region. We realized that isolated support measures are not enough and that the key to success is joint action. Therefore, with the support of the International Labour Organization, we initiated the establishment of the Local Employment Partnership Centar, which we later expanded to the Municipality of Novo Sarajevo. In this partnership, we have included non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, public employment service, private companies, and all those who share our vision of strengthening entrepreneurship in Sarajevo. This is how the Centre for Excellence in Entrepreneurship Sarajevo was born. We were strongly supported in this endeavour by the European Union and the International Labour Organization, promoting the concept of local employment partnerships and providing financial support to test and implement this idea in the field. Thanks to this project, over the past three and a half years, we have managed to provide more than 650 of our fellow citizens with professional support in business development and planning through SIYB training, mentoring, networking, and financial support. We have supported 129 businesses, most of which are still active today. More than one and a half million BAM (830,000 USD) was directly invested in the form of grants to entrepreneurs to start business ventures, and we launched a number of new initiatives as part of the partnership to continue expanding support to entrepreneurs, including transnational initiatives that we will implement over the next two years. I want to repeat what we emphasized at the beginning - we now perceive high standards and expected results as our obligation, and we are committed to positioning Sarajevo as an entrepreneurial leader, not only in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also beyond."

Srđan Mandić, Mayor, Municipality Centar Sarajevo