USAID Kosovo EMPOWER Private Sector

Textile workers in Kosovo

Cardno has made a significant difference in one of Europe’s poorer nations by empowering small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to be more competitive and individuals to be more skilled and employable.

Against the backdrop of Kosovo’s struggle with high unemployment, a small export sector and reliance on imports, Cardno helped local SMEs to become more competitive and generate more jobs.

We are proud to see that Kosovo businesses, with the support provided by the Cardno team, significantly strengthened their competitiveness over a period of five years.

The EMPOWER private sector activities program focuses on SMEs in select value chains to stimulate productivity, growth, and employment opportunities that are inclusive of women and minorities. In partnership with USAID and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Cardno team has also implemented workforce development initiatives to help prepare local people for the demands of a changing marketplace.

Throughout project implementation, our partner businesses upgraded their technology, optimized production, penetrated important export markets, created valuable business links with Kosovo diaspora businesses, and obtained important quality certifications.

Our interventions helped partner businesses create 5,109 jobs, over $214 million in reported new sales, of which over $101 million were from exports.

Companies targeted for support were primarily in wood processing, apparel, energy, ICT, tourism, metal processing, and other sectors. These sectors were chosen for assistance after an in-depth sector analysis at the start of the project, which demonstrated their potential to generate substantial job opportunities.

The project worked with a wide range of SMEs across the country, from businesses of less than 10 employees to larger ones with up to 200 employees. We forged close relationships with partner businesses, who complemented our project’s investment fund of over $5 million with over $20 million in co-funding. We collaborated closely with industry associations, most of whom are now capable partners supporting the competitiveness of the Kosovo private sector.

A significant amount of project resources and time went into helping SMEs widen their connections to buyers, mainly for export. This was done by connecting SMEs to buyers through international business trade fairs, B2Bs, and exhibitions in critical export markets, primarily in the EU. EMPOWER also coordinated domestic B2Bs, connecting SMEs with buyers from the Kosovo diaspora located in Germany, Switzerland and other countries. These connections not only have helped SMEs secure sales contracts but also to increase the quality of production based on the buyer’s requirements.

The remainder of EMPOWER support focused on technical assistance, international quality certifications, and workforce skills development, conducted through company internships and training providers to meet the needs of growing businesses.

At the end of the project, EMPOWER had:  

  • created 5,109 new jobs  
  • directly assisted 613 beneficiary companies 
  • contributed to beneficiaries’ aggregate total sales increases ($214M) and aggregate export increases ($101M)  
  • helped grow these businesses, supported their adoption of new technologies (95), and prepared them to enter new geographic markets where they presented an expanded product range
  • supported business partners to increase market opportunities through visits and exhibitions at trade fairs and conventions with 797 Partner businesses attended 85 fairs. Resulting in direct sales of $22M