Armenia is a small land-locked country in the Eurasia region situated between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Armenia considers itself more European rather than Southwest Asian. Armenia was previously a member of the Soviet Union; like many post-Soviet countries, it has historically had authoritarian rule. In 2018 Armenia had the Velvet Revolution, led by Nikol Pashinyan, which dislodged the historic elites. The revolution was peaceful and sparked hope of more democratic institutions in the country.
Armenia has had robust economic expansion over the last few years with growth at 7.5% in 2017, 5.2% in 2018 and 2019 projections are 6.8% respectively. The growth along with low inflation has allowed poverty rates to fall to 10.8% in 2018, using a poverty line of $3.2USD a day. Unemployment is relatively high for the region at 21.9%. Economic gains have been driven by expansions in the service and manufacturing sectors; with services experiencing 10% growth and manufacturing having 7%. Agriculture is still however the largest employer, amounting to 44% of men and 31% of women. That will likely change as the agriculture output has fallen year on year since 2016 and the sectoral contraction has continued in 2019.
Armenians are entrepreneurial with close to a third of both men and women identifying as self-employed. Ninety-Nine percent of firms in Armenia are reported as SMEs with 94% of those as microenterprises and they contribute to 66% of business employment. The majority of enterprises are in the service sector; however, a significant proportion of businesses are still operating in the informal sector. With the majority of informal enterprises run by women. Women entrepreneurs face challenges that commonly occur in the informal sector; providing services without contracts, lack of upfront payment for delivery of services etc. This is compounded by the fact that women face more severe competition in the informal space with work that has lower profitability. Contributing to this is the fact there are more working age women than men in the country, however there is a significant gender gap in economic activity between men and women (47.5% vs 52.5%) favoring men. The government has acknowledged the challenges faced by women and has developed a gender policy with a focus on reducing socioeconomic inequality. Details on implementation is still process. There has been partnership with multiple NGOs and international partners to help encourage female entrepreneurship and provide women the tools to be successful. This has included programs funded by GIZ, USAID etc. CEED has contributed to creating a more inclusive entrepreneurial community with the “CEED Women in Leadership,” lean in circle launched in 2016 to provide a safe space to support women across different industries and sectors to learn and grow together.