Moldova is a former Soviet state that has had a turbulent path to stability since declaring independence in 1991. The country’s transition from a controlled economy to a free-market economy did not come without challenges. The economy was and still is dominated by agriculture. The process of breaking up state-controlled farms disrupted the market and caused a significant loss in productivity. Even with these challenges, Moldova has made significant strides in recent decades. The economy has expanded by 4.6% annually over the past two decades, driven by consumption and remittances. Strong relationships with the EU have brought policy change and agenda reform. The EU is Moldova’s largest trading partner accounting for 70% of exports in 2018. GDP was $12 billion USD having grown 3.5% in 2019, which was down from 4.3% in 2018, but still a robust growth rate. Unemployment rates had been falling in recent years down to around 3% in 2018, but there was a sharp rise in 2019 to 5.4% due to a drop in agricultural production, falling exports and investments, and increased political instability.
A key contributor to Moldova’s future growth will be the development of SMEs. SMEs are the backbone of Moldova’s economy, in 2016 99% of businesses in Moldova were SMEs, with micro-enterprises make-up 93% of the business population. Additionally, SMEs contribute almost 66% of total value add to the Moldovan economy and make-up 63% of employment. However, women’s entrepreneurship rates are lower, 25% of SMEs are owned by women. Growth among women-owned firms has remained lower in recent years in four of seven industries in Moldova. However, women-owned businesses appear to be more stable and less likely to fail. Women run enterprises are more engaged with hiring and developing women. Empowering women entrepreneurs will be vital to furthering Moldova’s growth and development.
CEED has been active in empowering women entrepreneurs in Moldova for several years, providing and an array of business and leadership programming. CEED Moldova has partnered with local private sector stakeholders as well as large donors to help facilitate entrepreneurial growth and development. In 2019, the center had 65 active members and 28% of members are women-led enterprises. There are over 165 active enterprises and entrepreneurs in the broader community who actively engage with CEED programming.