Refugee Entrepreneurs: mapping European ecosystems to overcome the barriers

  • Finance, cultural and support services are significant challenges for refugees starting their own businesses across Europe
  • Organizations supporting refugees can enable success through advocacy, knowledge sharing and impact measurement
  • Strengthening of Long-term collaboration between refugee entrepreneurs and advocates with the finance and policy ecosystem is required

Supporting entrepreneurship among migrants and refugees is an effective way to include them in local economies. Newcomer entrepreneurs are more likely than natives to start a new business in almost all OECD countries but the survival rate of their businesses is lower than for natives.

This study mapped key actors supporting newcomer entrepreneurs in 10 markets in Europe,  (Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the UK.) collecting practitioners’ insights on current capacities and barriers and selecting good practices. It highlights opportunities to strengthen support for newcomer entrepreneurs both at ecosystem and programme level.

The qualitative research was conducted from January to June 2020 through a desk review of academic and grey literature on refugee and migrant entrepreneurship. Impact Hubs conducted in-depth interviews with 35 entrepreneur, support organisations, foundations and government agencies across Europe.

The research has shown that newcomer entrepreneurs face additional barriers to entrepreneurship when compared with their local peers. The main ones are related to their legal status, lack of language skills, limited entrepreneurial skills and poor knowledge of the local context. And finally, there are still great difficulties in accessing finance. Hence, their needs differ from the needs of entrepreneurs who were born in the host country, and also differ significantly based on the development stage of the venture.

Refugee and migrant entrepreneurs most often focus on sectors with low entry requirements where they can provide value based on their cultural background or experience of resettlement.  They are often focused on securing a regular income and often create positive social impacts by providing useful goods and services to their migrant community, through supply chain to the country of origin, or by employing fellow migrants.

The study provides recommendations to strengthen newcomer entrepreneurship and guidance to support organisations, job centers, financial services providers, and social integration community organisations aimed to provide continuous entrepreneurial support from the idea to growth/scaling stages.

The findings show that huge steps have been taken in the sector in just a few years, but there is still room for major improvements. But where? And what to do? Barriers in the ecosystem are widespread although some domains require more urgent attention than others -i.e. access to finance and policy. However, interventions addressing one single domain seem not to offer the solution to the problem. What if the answer lies in a more collaborative and partnership-based ecosystem? 

Watch the study presentation on January 28th, 2021