In Albania, SME’s employ more 80% of the labour population, compared to the EU average of 67%. Albanian SMEs provide about 68% of the country’s total value added, while the average in the EU is about 58%. Due to the fact that the Albanian economy is led by SMEs, it is expected that the projected economic upswing will result in increased SME employment and output growth.

In the last years, Albania has undertaken important reforms to improve the business environment. A one-stop shop was set up for swift and inexpensive registration of new businesses. E-procurement has been introduced. Various administrative issues can be resolved online. Tax procedures have been simplified. Recent policy measures have mainly focused on entrepreneurship, ‘second chance’, ‘responsive administration’ and skills & innovation.

Support from the IPA I national programme has so far focused on regulatory and competitiveness aspects and advice to develop the SME policy, including technical support to businesses for access to credit. The dedicated amount of IPA I has beenEUR 13.4 million. In addition, through multi-beneficiary programmes a range of regional credit facilities have been set up in order to increase investments. With respect to the support of other donors, Italy has created a credit line for SMEs while Germany, Switzerland, the UN and the US are supporting different aspects of SME policy development, capacity building and business support services. Regarding tourism, the EU has so far covered this area through the promotion of cultural heritage and urban requalification in various locations (e.g. in Korca, Elbasan, Shkodra and Berat).
Further steps need to be taken to improve access to finance, such as developing the venture capital market. For businesses to find qualified staff, it is essential to continue setting up the framework for developing skills. Specific measures are required to strengthen the innovation capacity of SMEs. The introduction of incubators, clusters and technological parks deserves more emphasis. Enhanced public support is needed to increase exports of the Albanian SMEs. A full regulatory impact assessment is to be introduced for all legislative proposals affecting businesses.

PLANET Albania has already in place a modern and integrated service portfolio to assist SMEs in overcoming these challenges and fulfil their new needs. This portfolio is based on five strategic pillars:
• Financial reengineering and exploitation of new financial instruments for investment and working capital funding
• Operational and organizational adjustment to adapt into new market conditions
• Modernization of business infrastructure to catch up with latest technology standards and international market needs
• Development of new high value products/services using local advantages and reinforcement of exporting capabilities
• Introduction of R&D activities either in-house or through participation in R&D projects of independent R&D institutes

Using a unique diagnostic and service delivery methodology and leveraging a wide network of high level field experts, PLANET Albania becomes a valuable partner for SMEs towards the fulfilment of their new goals and ambitions.