The European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have completed the fourth round of business bootcamps designed to help aspiring young entrepreneurs to create and expand rural businesses. Over 60 young people from all over Georgia submitted their applications and, after a virtual brainstorming session, 22 of them were selected to take part in an online bootcamp that took place on 12-13 December.
The EU and UNDP have already organized three similar business bootcamps for rural youth since November 2019, under their wider ENPARD-3 programme for rural development. These sessions are organized in partnership with the Rural Development Agency (RDA) that operates under the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture (MEPA), and two business-support entities: the social enterprise “Tbilisi Start-up Bureau” and the Batumi Business Incubator.
The initiative was kicked off a year ago to support youth entrepreneurship in rural areas and promote innovative rural businesses outside of agriculture and agri-food. The EU and UNDP continued supporting young entrepreneurs through the pandemic lockdown, exploring online formats for organizing meetups and training sessions.
The first three bootcamps, held in November and December 2019 and October 2020, brought together some 110 young entrepreneurs for a packed schedule of motivational talks and training that guided them through all stages of business modeling – from hatching an idea, identifying a target market, assessing client needs and local opportunities, developing marketing and media plans and defining the resources and partners needed to get the idea off the ground.
At the end of each bootcamp, the best business ideas were selected for future support: 24 winning entrepreneurs have so far started work on new businesses with the potential to create 90 jobs in tourism, manufacturing and other sectors.
“Youth are key drivers of the economic and social transformation of rural areas in Georgia,” said Carl Hartzell, EU Ambassador to Georgia. “By empowering and proactively engaging young entrepreneurs we hope to enable them to unleash their innovative capabilities and realize their business ideas. Creating new economic opportunities and improving the livelihoods of rural communities has always been at the center of the EU’s work here in Georgia. It gains particular importance now as we are joining hands to overcome the impact of the pandemic.”
“Youth entrepreneurship holds the promise of new jobs and new livelihoods for Georgia’s rural regions, and can give energetic young people a rewarding local alternative to leaving home,” said UNDP Head Louisa Vinton. “Moreover, as Georgia looks ahead beyond the pandemic shock, fresh and innovative business ideas can help drive a robust recovery.”
Georgia remains one of the most business-friendly countries globally, placing seventh out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 rankings. However, the pandemic is expected to reverse the growth trends, pushing the country into a six-percent recession in 2020 and increasing the poverty rate by up to 2.8 percentage points.
Recent research carried out by the EU and UNDP shows that almost half of Georgian companies have experienced a dramatic drop in revenues. But 70 percent of businesses are exploring new opportunities emerging amidst the crisis.
The EU and UNDP are Georgia’s long-term supporters in promoting rural development. EUR 179.5 million in EU assistance has been allocated to Georgia under the ENPARD program between 2013 and 2022. This support aims to promote rural development policies and create economic opportunities for the rural population outside of agriculture.