New digital platform will facilitate Western Balkans access to global value chains

A new digital platform could be set to increase connections between firms in the Western Balkans and regional and global value chains.

A new digital platform that will increase connections between firms in the Western Balkans and regional and global value chains is set to launched by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the investment arm of the World Bank, as part of its efforts to create jobs and support the region’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Implemented in partnership with the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO, the initiative is part of an IFC advisory programme in Serbia, Kosovo, and North Macedonia that is expected to facilitate 45 million US dollars in financing for manufacturing firms.

This also includes five million US dollars in foreign direct investments and support to increase higher valued added jobs.

Covid-19 has put pressure on manufacturers across the Western Balkans and the programme is designed to create new opportunities for firms, speeding the recovery from the pandemic.  

“Today, manufacturing is the second-largest employing sector in all Southeast European countries and the third-largest contributor to gross domestic product,” says Liliana de Sá Kirchknopf, head of SECO’s Private Sector Development Division.

“It is estimated that light manufacturing provides jobs for 200,000 people in Serbia alone, and over 70 per cent of this employment is generated by small and medium enterprises (SMEs). By promoting the economic integration of the Western Balkans’ manufacturing sector both within the region and with global value chains, SECO aims to contribute to the creation of more and better jobs for local workers and increased sales revenue for SMEs.”

Access to global supply chains

Manufacturers from the Western Balkans have been attempting to enter global supply chains for the last decade, but not all have the capacity and skills to forge connections with international firms.

This new digital platform linking manufacturers to investors, buyers, and suppliers is being developed together with United Kingdom-based Achilles, a global supplier of sourcing platforms. The programme will focus on domestic manufacturers in a variety of sectors, including automotive, industrial machinery, agricultural machinery, and light manufacturing.

“As we exit the Covid-19 crisis, the Western Balkans have an opportunity to attract fresh private investment, create skilled jobs, and raise incomes,” says Ary Naïm, IFC regional manager for Central and Southeast Europe. ‘ With this programme we aim to connect small and medium enterprises from the region with global and regional value chains, helping them improve competitiveness and grow faster.”

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