Serbia is one of the youngest states in Europe. It became a sovereign republic in 2006 when Montenegro voted in a referendum to be independent from the Union of Serbia and Montenegro and marked the last chapter in the separation of the former Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. Serbia experienced rapid growth from 2001 – 2008, driven by strong high domestic consumption however, it led to internal and external imbalances that were unsustainable and led to sharp contraction of the economy in 2009. Serbia has rebounded since and stabilized. Growth for 2019 was 3.3 percent and is expected to stay between 3-4% in the medium term. Consumption and investment have remained strong, but the rising level of public and private consumption along with net negative exports will be unmanageable.
Labor market outcomes have continued to improve, with employment reaching a record high of 49% in 2019. Poverty rates have declined, going from 23.8% in 2014 to 19.8% in 2019. The importance of SMEs has continued to grow and been an important component of Serbia’s economic recovery. The government has shown an increased support of SMEs in recent years with the implementation of “The Year of Entrepreneurship 2016.” However, the majority of SMEs in Serbia are still microenterprises, 96%. Serbia has been making progress in women’s entrepreneurship however, rates have remained relatively low, it’s estimated that 10% of registered SMEs are owned/led by women.
CEED developed a robust program in Serbia serving multiple high-growth start-ups and small businesses, increasing business management and capacity skills. The CEED program in Serbia included connecting Serbian entrepreneurs with global entrepreneurs from Silicon and Microsoft Serbia.