Written by Doriana Demerxhiu, edited by Andrea Abril Motoya

Entrepreneurship is an innovative and dynamic process which is considered one of the biggest driving forces of economic development. It presents a catalytic agent of change, which generates employment opportunities for others, and at the same time benefits investors and producers. This article analyses the obstacles that women entrepreneurs in Albania often encounter, highlighting their importance and addressing potential solutions. In addition, the article provides insights into the crucial role that women’s entrepreneurship plays in promoting sustainable growth in Albania. It also sheds light on the various opportunities and resources available to help women entrepreneurs overcome the challenges they face and succeed in doing business. 

Albania is an upper-middle-income country with a developing market economy. Albania has undergone significant economic and social changes in recent years which have created new opportunities for young entrepreneurs. There are important reforms being implemented to revitalise growth after the consequences of the earthquake, pandemic, and price crisis and supporting job creation while advancing the European Union integration agenda (The World Bank, 2023). The table below provides some insight into Albania’s economy.

Albania                                                                                        2022
Population, million                                                                          2.8
GDP, current US$ billion                                                                20.0
GDP per capita, current US$                                                         7,069.2
Upper middle-income poverty rate (US$6.85)                                34.2
Life Expectancy at birth, years                                                        77.0

Source: World Bank Group, 2023

In recent years, entrepreneurship has become increasingly important in Albania due to more improved business regulations, and increased foreign investments. The rapid advancement of technology and the internet has made it easier for aspiring entrepreneurs in Albania to access information, connect with global markets, and launch innovative business ideas. The growth of digital platforms and e-commerce has lowered barriers to entry and provided new avenues for entrepreneurial ventures. There have been various reforms and initiatives aimed at aligning the country’s business environment with EU standards. This includes enhancing entrepreneurship support programmes, access to finance, and fostering a culture of innovation and startups. Consequently, this has had a positive impact since it has contributed to job creation and economic growth by promoting innovation and new business ventures (World Bank Group, 2022). Furthermore, it has helped to diversify the economy, which is currently mostly based on a few key sectors such as tourism, agriculture, energy, mining and metallurgy (Andjelic & Petricevic, 2020, p.26)

Female entrepreneurship in Albania: progress and challenges 

Even though it brings innovation, in Albania, women are still less likely than men to pursue entrepreneurship. Female entrepreneurship in the Albanian economy is largely a new phenomenon due to many hindering factors that have existed such as traditional gender roles, economic changes, education and skills gap, limited resources and social support. 

In recent years, there have been progressive steps towards gender equality, but there are still differences in the work and business sphere. Men are paid more than women and are present in more business leadership positions, even though women have higher levels of university education (Regional Cooperation Council 2021). Most Albanian women entrepreneurs are involved in sectors such as retail, tourism, and hospitality. In the recent past, there has also been an increase in the number of women entrepreneurs in the fields of technology, innovation, and digital marketing. Women entrepreneurs ran about 31% of 118,627 businesses of all sizes across Albania. According to the 2021 report from the Regional Cooperation Council, 40.11% of active enterprises with female owners/administrators focused on “Other Services”, followed by “Trade” with 34.3% and “Accommodation and Food Services” with 28.57% (Regional Cooperation Council, 2021). Women entrepreneurs are more prominent in these sectors due to lower levels of initial capital investment they require compared to other sectors, making them more accessible to women entrepreneurs who may face financial constraints or limited access to financing. Furthermore, these sectors are seen as more female-friendly and more suitable for female entrepreneurs, due to the fact that doing business in these sectors gives some advantages to them like: flexible work arrangements, access to networks and markets, awareness and promotion etc. These sectors are among the most important sectors in Albania, being major contributors to the country’s GDP and providing significant employment opportunities (World Bank, 2023). 

Challenges faced by women in Albania in starting and growing their businesses

While women’s entrepreneurship in Albania is on the rise, there are still numerous challenges that women face in starting and growing their businesses, including access to finance, social norms, and gender discrimination, even though in some other areas they are making progress, for example in the area of networking and skills development (EU & Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency 2022, pp. 6-7). Some of these challenges are linked to economic, socio-cultural, political, and technological factors, others to a lack of entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurship support structures and networks. Listed below are some of the most significant challenges Albanian women entrepreneurs face.

  1. The challenge of mentality

The mentality of female entrepreneurs in Albania is a complex issue that is influenced by various social, cultural, and economic factors. One of the main challenges facing women entrepreneurs in Albania are the social norms and gender stereotypes that limit women’s access to resources, opportunities, and support (EU & Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency 2022, p.6-7). Additionally, cultural and societal expectations may also impact the mentality of female entrepreneurs in Albania. Many women may be expected to prioritise their families and domestic responsibilities over their careers or businesses, which can make it challenging for them. Although women’s social and economic participation in the work environment has advanced in the last few decades, negative gender stereotypes persist, as there may be cultural and societal expectations around women’s roles and responsibilities that can limit their access to resources and opportunities for entrepreneurship. This is supported by a 2023 survey that asked 36 Albanian women entrepreneurs what discriminatory statements they had faced during their entrepreneurship journey. Some discriminatory statements they encountered were: “females do not possess leadership and managerial skills”, “females should stay at home and look after children”, and “females should not lead male employees”, and there were also two other important elements indicating discrimination: “not providing loans to females because their business will fail” and “females should not inherit something from their family” (Ahmetaj et al, 2023, p.10).

     2. The challenge of quality of education and training on entrepreneurship

Women entrepreneurs in Albania may face limited access to professional networks and mentorship opportunities, which can make it more difficult to find support, build relationships, and access resources. They also may have limited access to training and education programs that can help them develop their skills and knowledge needed to succeed in business. Entrepreneurial learning is included in the country’s policies, but there are few actions, and it is not supported through a national policy partnership approach. There is data that conclude that entrepreneurial learning remains under-developed in terms of coordination, curriculum and assessment (OECD, 2022). 

     3. The challenge of financing

Female entrepreneurs in Albania may have limited collateral, financial literacy, and access to networks, which can make it difficult to obtain loans and other forms of financing. Below are listed some of the challenges (USAID, 2023):

  • Access to financing is limited. Women entrepreneurs in Albania often face difficulty accessing financing from formal financial institutions due to a lack of collateral, credit history, and information. 
  • There are high interest rates. Women entrepreneurs in Albania may also face higher interest rates on loans compared to men due to perceived higher risk. This can make it more costly for them to access financing and also limit their ability to invest in their businesses. Women-owned enterprises in Albania pay higher interest rates on loans than men-owned enterprises.
  • Lack of knowledge and awareness. Many women entrepreneurs in Albania are unaware of the financing options available to them or lack the information and skills needed to prepare a strong loan application. This can limit their ability to access financing and put them at a disadvantage compared to their male counterparts. 
  • The prevalence of bias and discrimination. Also, women entrepreneurs can face discrimination from investors and lenders in Albania, which limits their access to financing. They face gender discrimination when accessing finance, including lower loan approval rates and less favourable loan terms compared to men. In Albania, the most common sources of financing of female entrepreneurships are loans from the family, personal savings, and a very small percentage from bank loans or inheritance (Ahmetaj et al, 2023). 

   4. The challenge of balancing personal and professional life

Women entrepreneurs in Albania may also face challenges in balancing their personal and professional responsibilities, particularly if they have caregiving responsibilities or other family obligations. They are often expected to prioritise their domestic responsibilities over their careers, which can make it challenging to balance personal and professional life. Gender norms and expectations play a significant role in shaping women’s work-family balance. Women are expected to take care of their families and households, which can limit their ability to invest time and energy into their businesses. They may lack access to support services, such as affordable childcare, flexible working arrangements, and mentoring, which can help them balance their personal and professional responsibilities (Regional Cooperation Council, 2022). 

Other obstacles that women entrepreneurs may face are: the lack of grants to start a business, high taxes and fees, low access to finance, and an unfair competitive environment (U.S. Department of State 2022). Women have limited access to credit and subsidy schemes in rural areas, due in part to requirements that they are often unable to meet, like taxpayer identification numbers and land titles. Lack of financial literacy poses challenges for them to deal with the bureaucracy and necessary paperwork for loans and support (UN Women 2021).

Some initiatives that have supported women’s entrepreneurship in Albania

There are initiatives to level the playing field for female entrepreneurs, however. For instance, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Albania are set to benefit from new financing provided by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) which are co-financed by grants from the European Union. The German Agency for International Cooperation or (GIZ), partnered with the Women Founders Network in Albania, also has developed programmes to support women-led ventures in the country and in the greater Western Balkans. 

In addition, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have implemented several initiatives to support women entrepreneurs in Albania by providing training, mentoring, and networking opportunities. The Albanian government has developed several policies and programmes to support women’s entrepreneurship, like the National Action Plan for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality. Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Albania have also provided support to women entrepreneurs. Also, female entrepreneurship in Albania has improved due to the Business Development and the implementation of the Investment Strategy (2021-2027). 

How can female entrepreneurship impact the sustainable development of Albania? 

Female entrepreneurs have a noteworthy impact on generating employment opportunities, wealth, diminishing poverty, enhancing human development, education, healthcare, and the development of nations, particularly in developing countries. Without women entrepreneurs, economies could not achieve complete and sustainable success. Women are also important for sustainable development of the country because they are much likely to share their gains to health, education and other resources with their family members and also with their communities at large (Orser et al., 2006). 

Women entrepreneurs have already contributed to stability, well-being among communities, and provided economic opportunities to disadvantaged groups, including other women, low-wage employees, and minorities which overall impact economic growth and development. (Byrne et al., 2019). Moreover, entrepreneurial endeavours typically produce job openings, impact market expansion, introduce innovation and novel technologies, and establish new entities that enhance productivity and competitiveness. Entrepreneurship thus increases the productivity, capacity, and size of the economy through investment in creativity and competitiveness. Also, supporting women entrepreneurs helps in providing better work opportunities specifically for women and with more women in the workforce, economies are more productive and diverse and incomes are more equitable (Sajjad, 2020). Concretely, female entrepreneurship has played a positive social and environmental impact in Albania by also promoting social inclusion and sustainable practices. 

Female entrepreneurship in Albania should be prioritised to support women’s economic and social empowerment and drive improved stability, social and economic growth. This can also enable closing gender gaps in the workforce, supported by policies addressing family care and social protection (OECD, 2022). Research indicates that women, in general, tend to exert a lesser impact on the environment by making sustainable and resource-efficient choices for their households as well as their businesses. Economies with a large number of female entrepreneurs are more resistant to financial crises and experience economic slowdowns less frequently (GIZ, 2022). Women entrepreneurship has a positive impact on all economies of the world including developed and developing nations. The more the differentiation between males and females, the less development in the economy (Sajjad, 2020).

To sum it up, female entrepreneurs can play a vital role in the economic, social, and sustainable advancement of the world’s future. This contribution is in the terms of education, better health for societies and in all other areas in which people are able to groom themselves. Actually, successful women entrepreneurs play a model role for the future entrepreneurs of the world. (Al Mamun et al., 2019). 

Concrete Policy Suggestions

To advance the progress of entrepreneurship in Albania and other developing nations, it is crucial to prioritise modifications in areas like policy and legislation framework, strategies aimed at increasing awareness and communication, by promoting public and private education programs, networks and mutual support. Also it is suggested to be more systems designed to monitor social enterprise activities, programs of support provided by both the public and private sectors and different approaches to involve young people in social entrepreneurship (Andjelic & Petricevic, 2020, p.81-82).

For Albania, it is crucial to use programmes that aim to improve the financial environment and provide a diversity of financial instruments that will support female entrepreneurs in running their businesses (Kalaj, 2021, p.12). Specifically, moving from grants to first level investment instruments like microloans, convertible grants is deemed necessary for sector development. Establishment of a guarantee fund for commercial and government loans could boost social and young entrepreneurs’ motivation and development. It would be very important to increase entrepreneurship support by improving the availability of incubation services, management training, and financing for innovative startups (World Bank Group, 2022). 

In addition, higher education institutions in collaboration with policy makers should better assess the need for entrepreneurship education for women and girls in Albania and they should foster the entrepreneurial spirit and entrepreneurial education. By adressing structural barriers by debunking gender norms in entrepreneurship and by celebrating successful women founders as important role models can provide them with examples of women founders and business leaders who have effectively navigated the system to start and grow a successful business. It would be very important to predict business characteristics and market conditions rather than the gender of the founder (GEM, 2022). 

A report from (World Bank Group, 2023), suggests that socio-emotional skills training can be more effective than traditional business training in boosting women-led businesses, multifaceted graduation programs can foster income generating activities among women, interventions that encourage them to save can  improve  the  performance of  women-led businesses, innovative financial solutions could facilitate access to capital  for women entrepreneurs, encouraging women entrepreneurs to cross over to male dominated sectors could increase their profits (World Bank Group, 2023). 

Overall, female entrepreneurship can play an important role in promoting sustainable development, as women entrepreneurs can contribute to economic, environmental, and social sustainability through their businesses. Increasingly, young women in Albania are bypassing traditional employment opportunities in favour of starting their own business, while many of those already employed are looking to make the switch to self-employment. There have been significant steps toward promoting women entrepreneurship, but there are still challenges that persist. By addressing the unique challenges faced by women entrepreneurs and creating more supportive and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems, Albania can unlock the full potential of its female entrepreneurs and drive positive change for its society and economy. 


Ahmetaj, B., Kruja, D.A., Hysa, E. (2023). Women Entrepreneurship: Challenges and Perspectives of an Emerging Economy, 13(4), 111, pp.16. https://doi.org/10.3390/admsci13040111 

Al Mamun, A., Fazal, S.A. and Muniady, R. (2019), “Entrepreneurial knowledge, skills, competencies and performance: a study of micro-enterprises in Kelantan, Malaysia”, Asia Pacific Journal of   Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 29-48.   https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/APJIE-06-2019-0042/full/html

Andjelic, J., Petricevic, T. (2020). Regional Study and Guidelines on Social Entrepreneurship in the Western Balkans, pp. 21, 81-82. https://www.rycowb.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/RISE-Regional-study-on-social-entrepreneurship-in-WB6.pdf 

Byrne, J., Fattoum, S., & Diaz Garcia, M. C. (2019). Role models and women entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurial superwoman has her say. Journal of Small Business Management, 57(1), 154–184. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsbm.12426 

European Union (EU) and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. (2022)        

Women’s Status in Employment and Vocational Education & Training in Albania, pp.6-7. https://awenetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Gender-Analysis-Albania_2022.pdf   

GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor) (2022). Women’s Entrepreneurship Report: From Crisis to Opportunity. London. https://www.gemconsortium.org/reports/womens-entrepreneurship 

International Labor Organisation (2023). The International Labour Organization’s Women’s   Entrepreneurship Development Framework Conditions & National Assessment Methodology,  pp. 2-5. https://www.ilo.org/empent/areas/womens-entrepreneurship-development-wed/WCMS_865730/lang–en/index.htm   

Kalaj, E. (2021). Female Entrepreneurship in Albania: Analysis of Financial Incentives and  Disincentives. pp. 12 . https://www.researchgate.net/publication/364518097_Female_Entrepreneurship_in_Albania_Financial_Incentives_and_Disincentives   

Morched, S. & Jarboui, A. (2018). Does female entrepreneurship add in economic growth?    Evidence from 25 countries. Journal of Academic Finance, 9(2). https://www.scientific-society.com/journal/index.php/AF/article/download/164/171 

OECD. (2022). SME Policy Index Western Balkans and Turkey 2022 – Assessing the Implementation of the Small  Business Act For Europe. pp. 363. https://www.oecd.org/countries/republicofnorthmacedonia/sme-policy-index-western-balkans-and-turkey-2022-b47d15f0-en.htm  

Orser, B.J., Riding, A.L. and Manley, K. (2006), “Women entrepreneurs and financial capital”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Vol. 30 No. 5, pp. 643-665. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-6520.2006.00140.x 

Regional Cooperation Council. (2021). Women Entrepreneurship in Albania. pp.1-2. file:///C:/Users/user/Downloads/Albania%20FINAL_DEC2022%20(6).pdf 

Rica, R. (2021).Women Entrepreneurship Framework in Albania. pp. 168. https://hrcak.srce.hr/file/406006 

Sajjad, M. (2020). Worldwide role of women entrepreneurs in economic development. Asia Pacific  

Journal of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 151-160. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/APJIE-06-2019-0041/full/pdf?title=worldwide-role-of-women-entrepreneurs-in-economic-development 

The German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ). (2023). GIZ Gender. https://gender-works.giz.de/  

The German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ). (2023). Accelerating Women      Entrepreneurs, pp. 9-10. https://www.giz.de/en/downloads/giz2022-0011en-accelerating-women-entrepreneurs-handbook.pdf   

The World Bank. (2023). Retrieved from https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/albania/overview  

World Bank Group. (2023). Policy Lessons on Supporting  Women Entrepreneurs, Gender Innovation Lab Federation Evidence Series. https://openknowledge.worldbank 

World Bank Group. (2022). Creating Markets in Albania: Taking Advantage of New Trade and  Investment Opportunities for a More Robust Private Sector. xi – xii.   https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/entities/publication/b7b1dd8a-20bf-568d-a186-e0f31fa1aa2f  

Ujwary-Gil, A. (2023). Current Trends in Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurial Orientation, Intention, and    

Alertness. Journal of Entrepreneurship, Management and Innovation. Volume 19, Issue 1,   pp. 62-63. https://doi.org/10.7341/20231912

United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. (2021). Overview of  Women Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship. pp. 1-2. https://eca.unwomen.org/sites/Attachments/Publications/.pdf 

USAID. (2022). Albania: with Access to Capital a Women-Owned Small Business Drive Change One Vehicle at a Time. https://usaid-pse.exposure.co/albania  

U.S. Department of State. (2022) 2022 Investment Climate Statements: Albania. https://www.state.gov/reports/2022-investment-climate-statements/albania/ 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like