Edmir Uku, 25 years old, is from Vaqarr, a village of Tirana. He speaks with great passion about agriculture, organic food and life in Albanian rural areas. Edmir holds a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture. After graduation, employment options in his field of study were almost nonexistent.
“I saw an ad on Facebook calling on interested young people to submit their business ideas as part of UNDP Self-Employment Programme. I had a million ideas, all related to agriculture. My family owns land which I could make use of, so I developed my idea: Build a greenhouse to grow organic vegetables and varieties of vegetables that are no longer being cultivated but are in high demand.”
“One of the best days of my life was when I was informed by UNDP that my business idea was selected and that I was eligible for a $ 4500 grant to set up my business.”
Edmir and other young people whose ideas were selected, participated in a 40- hour training which included business plan development, personal mentoring, and counseling on the budget plan. With the help of experienced trainers and entrepreneurs they had the opportunity to consolidate their initial business ideas into viable service/product that is ready to face the market.
“Mentorship was vital. I met with entrepreneurs who talked about their way to success. I also received legal and financial advisory support” says Edmir.
With the USD 4500 grant, Edmir, built a 650 sq meter greenhouse and invested in several varieties of seeds and fertilizers.
“I remember my first harvest: A special variety of organic tomatoes, peppers, green beans, eggplants and cucumbers. All sold in 3 days thanks to contacts I had established with three restaurants and aggro-businesses. People are becoming more and more aware of the the value of organic food. Neighbors also buy my products. When I am not there, they can pick up their vegetables, weigh them and just leave the money in the basket”.
Edmir today produces around 1.200 kg of special varieties of tomatoes, and around 300 kg of peppers per season. This product gives him almost twice the revenues that a normal aggro worker would make.
He says: “The grant was an excellent incentive for me to start my business. Without it, this would have been impossible. I am just a young graduate and I was quick to seize the opportunity to make my business dream a reality”.
Edmir is one among 96 young people who have set up their own business thanks to the support they have received from UNDP. He has hired one young graduate to help with the green house and plans to expand his business and employ more people.
Since 2016, in partnership with Swiss Development Cooperation, UNDP has been implementing the Self-employment Programme targeting youth between 18 and 30 years old to strengthen their entrepreneurial skills. Over 1000 young people applied and 120 were selected to attend the programme. Most of the business ideas are in the fields of information and communication technology, tourism, aggro-processing, apparel, handcrafts-all responding to market needs with the strong potential of creating new jobs in the future.
Youth in Albania face significant challenges to enter the labour market compared to the rest of the population. Youth unemployment rate in Albania is at 22.6%- nearly double compared to the overall unemployment rate in the country. Many of those seeking employment are unable to find a job, even though they have strong qualifications. Young Albanians lack neither confidence nor talent, yet they have trouble taking the plunge into self-employment.
Skills obtained through the vocational education and training system are yet to match those required by the labor market, resulting in skills shortage in certain areas and skills surplus in others. According to the report: ‘Skills Need in Albania’ many as 44% of employers in the country report difficulties in finding skilled workers.
“The potential of small-scale private entrepreneurship is immense, not only as an engine for economic growth, but also as a means to fight unemployment. Programmes like this one can be of benefit to all social groups, including vulnerable groups that face challenges in the formal labor market. This self-employment programme reflects the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals. One of the targets the world has set for itself for the year 2030 is to achieve ‘decent work for all women and men.’ This is an ambitious target and such programmes bring us closer to this goal”, says Limya Eltayeb, UNDP Country Director.