In 2019, North Macedonia had a population of 2.1 million people with a GDP of $12.7 billion, and a GDP per capita of $6,100. In the past two decades, North Macedonia’s economic growth was the most stable in the Western Balkans, its GDP per capita more than doubled, and it went from a low income to an upper middle-income country status. Despite the stagnation period of 2017, the country’s economy grew by 2.7% in 2018 and then 3.6% in 2019. The main drivers of growth include private consumption, fueled by increases in employment, wages, and lending to households– contributing 2.4 percentage points, along with significant growth in the construction, industry, wholesale, and retail sectors. While unemployment dropped by over 3 percentage points between 2018 and 2019, the unemployment rate remains high at 17.3%.
From an entrepreneurial perspective, there were 70,139 SMEs that were registered in North Macedonia in 2015, with 90.6% of them being micro-enterprises, 7.1% of them are small firms, 1.9% of them are medium firms, and 0.33% of them are large firms. SMEs contribute up to 54.1% of the GDP and they are said to employ up to 74.9% of the working population. While imbalances still exist in the representation of women and youth in the entrepreneurial landscape, there are initiatives that are being taken to counter the existing gaps. The Association of Women Organizations in North Macedonia is championing awareness around the role of women in the economy and society in general. In addition, there has been an emergence of several ministries, agencies, and organizations that are promoting a national policy on entrepreneurship. Under this policy endeavor, the government seeks to formulate initiatives that encourage and cultivate an environment that allows the flourishing of entrepreneurship.
CEED Macedonia is a part of this along with; inter alia, the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Information, Society, and Administration, and the Agency for Promotion of Entrepreneurship of the Republic of North Macedonia (APPRM). Additionally, several programs and institutions have been put in place to increase entrepreneurship capacities, including the Central European Initiative Know-how Exchange Program (CEI-KEP), Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Program (CIP), the North Macedonia Competitiveness Project, and the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Credit Authority (SME DCA). The center has run projects to promote youth and women’s entrepreneurship programming and founded the CEED HUB Skopje as an accelerator for local entrepreneurs.