From Conflict to Commerce: East Expo 2023 promotes small business expansion in Ukraine

More than 80 enterprises representing diverse industries are showcasing their products, and seeking strategic partnerships to broaden their market horizons

June 6, 2023
Photo credit: Andrii Krepkykh / UNDP in Ukraine

Kyiv, 6 June 2023 – East Expo 2023, a highly anticipated annual event that brings together micro, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), began today in Kyiv. This remarkable showcase will last until 7 June 2023. The event is intended to support MSMEs relocated from or based in the war-affected areas of Ukraine to establish new business partnerships, help to reconnect disrupted economic links, facilitate post-war recovery, and promote digitalization and internationalization of their commercial activities.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Ukraine organized“East Expo 2023” in the framework of the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, with financial support from the European Union (EU), the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, and the Government of Croatia.

In addition to the exhibition, which lies at the heart of East Expo 2023, attendees have the opportunity to engage in a rich array of business-centric panel discussions, captivating presentations and enlightening masterclasses, and even purchase products directly from the showcased MSMEs throughout the fair.

Rémi Duflot, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, said that support for economic recovery and livelihoods in the face of the Russian war of aggression has been one of the key priorities for EU-Ukraine cooperation since 2014, adding: “The EU is a longstanding partner and steadfast supporter of the vastly appreciated East Expo fair, because it very effectively serves this objective”. “East Expo has established itself as a platform for productive connections between businesses across Ukraine and beyond. A robust micro, small and medium enterprise sector will not only contribute to the diversification of the Ukrainian economy and bolster its resilience, but also is  essential for Ukraine's integration in the EU economic space. We look forward to dynamic state policies in support of that sector, which in the EU provides for two-thirds of jobs and more than half of the value-added.”

The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine is already supporting East Expo for the fourth time. “The United States is committed to providingeconomic, humanitarian, and any other assistance to Ukraine for as long as it takes,” said Ewan MacDougall, Acting U.S.Embassy Assistance Coordinator, welcoming the entrepreneurs relocated from or based in war-affected communities.

Anica Djamic, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Croatia to Ukraine, said her country is proud to be a supportive partner to Ukraine. “Our commitment to the East Expo stems from our firm belief in the transformative power of economic empowerment. By supporting this remarkable event, Croatia aims to bolster the resilience of war-affected businesses in Ukraine, foster economic stability and drive sustainable growth,” she said. “Together, we can pave the way for a prosperous future, where entrepreneurship flourishes, and the scars of conflict are healed. Croatia stands shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine, as partners in progress and advocates for a brighter tomorrow.”

Christophoros Politis, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, said that UNDP, alongside partners, had intensified its programmatic focus on supporting MSMEs since the start of the war and will continue doing so. MSMEs, which account for over two-thirds of the country's employment, as well as the private sector more broadly, are “in times of conflict, beacons of hope, sustaining jobs and livelihoods and paving the path to reconstruction,” he said. “By keeping goods and services flowing, we not only sustain life, we also invest in rebuilding shattered communities and strengthening resilience. Employment opportunities are a transformative force that mends the wounds of war, restores dignity, and empowers individuals to shape a brighter future for Ukraine.”


The full-scale invasion of Russian Federation in Ukraine resulted in massive damages and losses to the industry and commerce facilities – US$10.9 billion and US$85.8 billion respectively, according to the Ukraine Rapid Damage Needs Assessment. About half of the damage was to small and micro businesses, which face such constraints as interruptions to electricity and water supply; rising input prices; danger while working; supply chain disruptions; reduced demand; uncertainty about the future; lack of capital; and regulatory and fiscal obstacles. Revitalizing the private sector was announced as one of the Government of Ukraine’s priorities, as it can create livelihood opportunities, and contribute to critical needs during reconstruction, such as construction, the food industry and manufacturing.

In line with this, UNDP prioritizes economic restoration and promotes sustainable development in Ukraine. Specifically, it is stimulating employment and economic growth by assisting MSMEs through the development of demand-driven business servicesand professional skills training, enhancing business support infrastructure, as well as strengthening the institutional and educational infrastructure needed for the effective functioning of the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors of the economy. Addressing the war-related challenges, UNDP has amplified its strategic emphasis on bolstering MSMEs by providing greater support and resources to this vital sector.

The seven East Expos, two regional and five national (one of them online), conducted in 2017-2021 in Kramatorsk, Sievierodonetsk, Kyiv and Lviv, allowed 280 MSMEs from southern and eastern Ukraine to present their goods and services to vast audiences. As a result, some 70 percent of them found clients and partners through business-to-business (B2B) meetings held during the events, and over 10,000 people visited the expos in total.

The event is being held in partnership with the Ministry of Economy of Ukraine, the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, the Entrepreneurship and Export Promotion Office, the Ukrainian national project Diia.Business, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblast State Administrations, the Donetsk Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Media enquiries: Yuliia Samus, UNDP Ukraine Head of Communications; e-mail:

East Expo 2023