Supporting Syrian Businesses: Unleashing the Potential

July 27, 2021

The event “Supporting Syrian Businesses: Unleashing the Potential” informed the participants of the activities undertaken jointly by UNDP Turkey and İNGEV to support the inclusion of Syrian-owned enterprises and entrepreneurs in employment, outcomes of such activities, and recommendations on future intervention areas.

UNDP Turkey Syria Crisis Response and Resilience Portfolio and İNGEV (Human Development Foundation) offer business development services to Syrian-owned enterprises and Syrian entrepreneurs since 2019. Organized on the occasion of 20 June World Refugee Day, the event “Supporting Syrian Businesses: Unleashing the Potential” provided an opportunity to inform the participants from development partners and entrepreneurship eco-systems on the activities for supporting Syrian entrepreneurs and SMEs, business development and employment creation undertaken in cooperation with İNGEV with funding from the European Union and Government of Japan. Furthermore, opinions and experience regarding the results of the said activities and future areas of interventions were also discussed in the event.

Thanks to the cooperation of UNDP Turkey and İNGEV, and funding from the European Union in business development and employment creation, important and useful services were provided to Syrian entrepreneurs such as financial and legal consultancy, company founding, business licencing, financial support, accounting, marketing, e-commerce, integration into supply chains and language support for both technical matters and business development.

The process which started with COVID-19 pandemic naturally expanded the scope of services provided. During this period when digitalization and teleworking became increasingly important, support for development of digital skills were provided to Syrian-owned enterprises. The activities for digitalization of Syrian SMEs, implemented with funding from the Government of Japan, focused on supporting the digitalization of Syrian-owned enterprises through training, mentoring programmes and financial support packages in order to combat challenges arising from the pandemic. 

Through works undertaken within this context since July 2019, 650 cases of consultancy services in total have been provided to 420 entrepreneurs and enterprises in cities with high Syrian population such as Istanbul, Gaziantep, Mersin, Kilis, Bursa, Hatay and Adana. Standing out among such services are financial and legal consultancy including tax regulations and other measures related to COVID-19, matters related to lease of office and other facilities, copyrights, matters of trademarks and patenting. The prominence of these matters points out that Syrian entrepreneurs and SMEs have problems and lack of knowledge mostly in these areas. These services were provided to a total of 1,985 persons who were employed or newly placed in employment by the entrepreneurs and enterprises.

As a result of activities implemented, through the company founding support, 145 new companies were founded in total, including 77 companies of persons and 68 unlimited companies. Through the newly established companies, 168 new jobs were created. The total capital investment of Syrian entrepreneurs who received services reached 7.7 million Turkish Lira. When we categorize the established enterprises by their field of activity, 41% of them are in services, 21% in manufacturing industry, 21% in wholesale and retail trade and 18% in other trade.

According to feedbacks received in February 2021 with 109 individuals who established companies or were placed in jobs; 84% of enterprise owners were satisfied with their businesses, 64% stated that they reached their business expectations and targets, 76% would like to expand their business, 69% stated that the financial consultancy service assisted them in solving the relevant problems. 

Under the project, mini recovery grants with the value of 500 USD were distributed to 70 Syrian entrepreneurs, including 50 women and 20 men, in particular women entrepreneurs, persons with disabilities and SMEs operating in tourism, restaurant and retail. 44% of these grants were used for tax debts, 29% equipment required for work, 12% costs regarding marketing, 9% capital debts, 3% bills owed and 3% other.

High willingness to employ refugees by employers in the future (98%), high job satisfaction of employers (94%) and intention to renew work permits of the employees for the next year (93%) were among other positive findings that emerged as a result of activities that were undertaken.

Recommendations which were prepared as a result of the experience from these services provided to Syrian entrepreneurs and SMEs and the feedbacks received are important in terms of guiding the future work. Accordingly, the following are the prominent recommendations made at the event: better coordination and dissemination of information among all development partners; incentives for the work permits; increasing the roles of chambers and associations in order to strengthen relations of Syrian-owned SMEs with the chambers of commerce and industry in Turkey; support for agricultural and livestock projects in order to create livelihoods and employment; incentives to explore export potential and business opportunities with Arabic speaking countries; support to freelancers; developing mentorship and networking programs for integration of Syrian-owned SMEs into domestic market; providing capacity building support to SMEs by providing hands-on consultancy on law and finance; access to finances such as loans and grants programs; designing programs which will support Syrian women entrepreneurs and workers to maintain livelihoods and expand these opportunities; developing Turkish language skills for Syrian entrepreneurs and workers in order to eliminate the language barrier.

Currently hosting the largest number of refugees in the world, including 3.7 million Syrians, Turkey displays best practices in terms of increasing their resilience through participation of Syrians in the labour market. Supporting access to decent works to strengthen the local resilience has always been one of the main priorities of UNDP. It is possible to say that one of the most important support areas in terms of sustainable livelihoods is entrepreneurship. Therefore, activities to encourage opening the labour market to refugees and providing refugees' access to not only employment but also to entrepreneurship set an example for connection established successfully between humanitarian aid and development targets.

Click here to watch the recording of the event.