6 Bigla St., Floor 2, Ap.3
Sofia 1407, Bulgaria
Contact Information email@example.com
Bulgaria is one of the oldest states in Europe, located in the heart of the Balkans. The country has undergone major transformation in recent decades, moving from a communist country to an open market economy. After the major political and economic restructuring in 1989 the country experienced major growth and development that lead to it becoming an upper-middle income EU country. Wages have steadily risen since liberalization with GDP per capita going from $2,477 USD in 1989 to $9,518 USD in 2019.
Bulgaria is in the midst of significant demographic change. Bulgaria has the fastest shrinking population in the world. The population has gone from 9 million in 1989 to 7 million currently and is expected to continue to fall to 5.5 million by 2050. This has been largely due to high rates of emigration along with low birth rates. There are concerns about the long-term economic implications of the population decrease. This challenge isn’t unique to Bulgaria, it has become a regional issue for all 10 countries in Eastern Europe. A huge driver of increasing emigration has been concerns around quality employment. While unemployment levels have fallen to 4.8%, Bulgaria remains the poorest country in the EU.
Entrepreneurship is still developing in Bulgaria. Self-employment rates in Bulgaria are still the lowest in Europe at 11%; developing a more mature entrepreneurial system will be critical in maintaining and continuing economic growth. The government has developed the Action Plan Entrepreneurship 2020 to help encourage start-ups and small business growth. SMEs already play a significant role in economic growth in Bulgaria, accounting for 75% of employment outside of the financial business. Though women’s participation in entrepreneurship is lower than men; Bulgarian women enterprises show more growth than their regional counterparts. However, they represent a limited share of innovative, export-oriented businesses. More tailored support is needed for women to be more competitive in the SME space in Bulgaria.
With this context in mind, CEED Bulgaria was founded in 2005, the first center in southeast Europe. Over the years, CEED Bulgaria has organized and facilitated business discussions, specialized seminars, conferences, networking events, and meetings with multinational companies and investors for their entrepreneur members. Some highlights from over the years included hosting the 2016 CEED Global Conference in Sofia, launching projects in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to bring their SME development services into Central Asia, and leading training thousands of SME founders and employees since 2005. In 2019, the center had 390 active members, 49% of whom were women, and their programming involved 460 enterprises and entrepreneurs from the broader community.