Netherlands Embassy in Tirana, Albania

Brilliant Women Entrepreneurs Seminar

Opening speech of ambassador Van de Weerd

What a brilliant thing to do this morning, launching the first Albanian Women Entrepreneurs Network. Entrepreneurship was once considered a man's domain, but the tide has shifted. According to INSTAT (2015),  female owners make up 31% of businesses in Albania, showing a growing rate year by year. Recent surveys show that young female entrepreneurs are starting more companies, managing more staff and targeting higher profits than their baby boomer predecessors. But we still need to do a lot to close the gender gap.

I would like to quote my Dutch Minister of Aid and Trade, Lilianne Ploumen: “Of all possible investments in countering inequality, investing in women may just be the best. Because more than men, women invest their earnings in their families and communities. They equip their children to break out of poverty. They promote social cohesion in communities, which is so essential for the growth of economic activity. The private sector can do a lot to improve the chances of female entrepreneurs. Smart companies know that investing in women pays. Banks know that female entrepreneurs pay back better and that women make the consumer decisions. Companies know that with more women in management, they perform better. Factories know that if they invest in the skills of their women employees, their productivity will increase. ”

Although more women are becoming entrepreneurs, they often face a set of challenges, not typically shared by their male counterparts.The main ones are: capacity building, access to finance, building a support network. These are also the main pillars of the Albanian National Action Plan on Women entrepreneurship.

One year ago, in the framework of a regional project, our embassy offered the opportunity to have a career development programme to 4 Albanian women entrepreneurs. I was pleasantly surprised when you, Anisa, AnaMaria, Fatmira and Linda approached the embassy at the end of the programme. The Albanian team  was eager to lay the foundation for further initiatives on advancing empowerment of women entrepreneurs. And look at the event today. The Network of Albanian Women Entrepreneurs, ‘NAWE’ is born. Despite your jobs as women in business, you respect the value of personal development, as an opportunity to boost your own potential. I admire women who, despite daily challenges and difficulties, want to grow professionally and get out the best of themselves. I am also delighted to see the big variety amongst the 40+ participants: we have women recycling jeans or working in consultancy and IT,  a goat farm and handicraft or filigree jewelry. I am sure this programme will enhance your entrepreneurial skills by building on your individual talent and further shaping it.

One of the biggest challenges for a female entrepreneur is to have the right access to financing. The Netherlands supports micro finance credit organisations in Albania like NOA and FEDINVEST. Other specific schemes for women entrepreneurs are avaliable from AIDA and the EBRD as well. Therefore, the marketplace offered tomorrow will be a good opportunity to facilitate access to such information. I hope you will benefit from the variety of institutions invited. The Netherlands strongly believes in the power of women, but we also believe in the power of networking – especially in the entrepreneurship community. In my country such networks are a good mechanism to hook women entrepreneurs up with high-level policy actors.

I believe there is room for more organized actions for Albanian women entrepreneurs to establish and extend such networks at the national, regional and international level. Together you will identify and address bottlenecks that  limit women’s economic empowerment. I personally value the power of networking and co-working and would like to share with you an old proverb: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.‘ Did you know that if women were to participate in the economy on an equal footing with men, countries would see GNP growth of over 25 percent in the next ten years! Supporting  women entrepreneurship is therefore a key step to enable the contribution of more women to the national economic development.

Let me compliment the three organisations in charge: GADC, the excellent team of four Albanian women entrepreneurs and the Brilliant Entrepreneurs team coming from the Netherlands. I wish you all two inspiring days.