The USAID Economic Resilience Activity is seeking private, public, and NGO partners for initiatives to improve the competitive position of MSMEs in eastern Ukraine and the Sea of Azov region. These partnerships should help the Activity to implement its strategy and workplan for economic growth, support for vulnerable populations, and enhancement of economic optimism. The partnerships should enable MSMEs and their communities to speed-up recovery from such shocks a as the armed conflict and accompanying economic crisis, loss of access to traditional markets, the COVID-19 pandemic, and recent catastrophic forest fires, or to accelerate growth in sectors that have already adapted well to these shocks. This support should lead to diversified end markets and market channels, successful entry into online marketing and sales, increased overall sales, and improved and additional employment.
The USAID Economic Resilience Activity’s work is centered on three pillars:
1. Inclusion: building the capabilities of vulnerable populations to capitalize on entrepreneurial and MSME economic opportunities;
2. Growth: helping micro, small, and medium businesses innovate, invest, and expand markets; and
3. Transformation: working with coalitions and leaders to articulate a vision for the future and put in place a modern, diverse, and SME-friendly economy.
Partners are selected through an open and competitive process.
ERA focuses on working with businesses in six target sectors, each of has the potential to grow and create new economic opportunities for MSMEs. These sectors are honey, vegetables, information technology, innovation for manufacturing, alternative energy, and tourism. ERA takes a value-chain approach to working in the target sectors, with a focus on market expansion and investment acceleration, including increasing access to finance.
With the decline of the region’s traditional industries brought on by the Russia-backed conflict and the economic disruption caused by Russia’s hybrid war in the Sea of Azov, the region’s hitherto reliance on heavy industry, mining, and port-based exports is unsustainable. Furthermore, the mass exodus of skilled workers and youth poses an existential threat to key regional cities and the sustainability of existing business. To address this challenges ERA focuses on driving vision, and accelerating investments in infrastructure.
The conflict is depriving many people living in eastern Ukraine of a viable economic future. Because a stable and resilient economy is one that gives opportunities to its most disadvantaged citizens, ERA specifically targets the inclusion of vulnerable populations by:
• Working with local partners to provide training and mentoring that builds the skills and capabilities of and vulnerable populations to successfully participate in economic opportunities;
• Providing grants to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that support vulnerable populations’ engagement in the economy.
• Supporting MSMEs that employ vulnerable persons to expand their operations;
• Connecting the unemployed and underemployed with internships, jobs, mentors, and other informational support and practical experience;
• Building local information systems (such as through career development centers) so that people know about entrepreneurial opportunities in target sectors; and
• Aligning curricula with the demands of employers and enabling local educational and vocational institutions, including so-called “displaced” universities (i. e. those institutions forced to relocate due to the conflict) to provide practical skills development training for unemployed and underemployed youth in trades that are in high demand locally