The Focus group meeting was organized by the Cluster House, based on recommendation of the Serbian Business Women Association, facilitated by the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, in Nis on December 28th 2016.
Twelve business women from the Nis City area, in the field of agriculture and food processing, catering, business-financial services, medical services, marketing and web design, contributed to creation of better business environment in Serbia, with their suggestions and transparent presenting their business needs with the aim to show how business women should be supported in Serbia.
The women are formally equal with men, but in reality they do not have the same possibilities for running business as men:
- Lack of access to finance, since women could not get the credit loan due to missing the guaranty because of the fact that women are mainly not owner of the real estate;
- Lack of access to higher quality, valuable businesses and projects, since this kind of business deals are getting during the business lunches in the restaurants, what is not the custom and place where women would like to go;
- Lack of state’s simulative measures for business women from 2012, as well as the lack of international organizations’ programmes and funds where the business women will be able to access and improve their businesses.
Serbian women develop their businesses based on personal contacts and through the internet, business associations and networks. In the lack of techniques and technologies, they are using their creativity in work, mainly manual approach (“handwork”) that allows them to start a business but not to seriously develop, because missing equipment and modern technological and management skills they cannot be competitive in the local market and especially not in the global.
Serbian women are in the same time entrepreneurs, housewives and mothers, in one word family people from whom the community traditionally expects to do everything alone. The mentality of the South Serbia additionally aggravates the development of women’s entrepreneurship. The need for more effective implementation of the Serbian Law on Gender Equality and systematic economic empowerment of women in rural areas, who are poorly developed in the SE Serbia, should be a strategic priority for socio-economic development of Serbia.
Women are key agents of changes that contribute to sustainable economic development in the country because their energetic approach, emotional intelligence and commitment to persevere in spite of numerous bureaucratic obstacles and extreme poverty in the SE Serbia.
Winners of the prestigious national award “Success flower for the most successful women entrepreneurs in Serbia” by Serbian Business Women Association from 2008-2016 actively participated on the meeting:
The most important suggestions on the Focus Group meeting were:
- Possibility for women to get the credit loan with more flexible guaranties, with respect to better assessment of the business idea and participation of banks as shareholders until the loan repayment.
- The introduction of patron-client/entrepreneurs in banks for a more efficient dialogue between the bank and the client/entrepreneur.
- Reduction of banking and other paperwork through more efficient use of electronic and mobile banking and electronic / chipped ID cards that already have the signature of the owner.
- Approve loans to a minimum of three years with a grace period of one year, with the development incentive rate (up to 3%) – apply the approach to empower customers through the development of customers who will make higher profits and become better clients in the future.
- Develop special financial packages for women in business by encouraging business ideas, particularly innovative to be executed between R&D institutions and entrepreneurs, through start up businesses, micro and SMEs existing businesses.
- Capacity building for associates in the financial institutions, first of all banks, for work with micro and SMEs.
- Introduce a national budget line for co-financing of the business and development projects financially supported from EU and other funds.
- Develop cooperation between financial institutions and associations and business networks with the aim to align the needs of entrepreneurs and the offers of banks, to efficiently inform entrepreneurs and help them to access to funds.
- Attract the EU, bilateral and national programs which will support networking, information and education of entrepreneurs regarding the use of aid for economic development and business development packages of the international and financial institutions
- For the SE Serbia the national business development programs which are based on 50% co-financing of the total value of the project are not incentive support, the percentage should be changed in the amount of up to 10%.
By adjusting supplies to the needs, efficient mentoring, monitoring and evaluation will be realized serious and long-term changes in the environment.
Providing strategic support to the development of women’s entrepreneurship is a guarantee of sustainable development and growth of the Serbian economy.