Refugee Entrepreneurship: The Current Status of Syrian-led SMEs in Turkey

Articles | Doğan Çelik, Nazlı Kazanoğlu

Executive Summary: 

Since 2011, the Syrian Civil War has displaced six million Syrians internally and five million externally. Today, 3.6 million of those who fled their country are living in Turkey. With the support of national and international humanitarian aid and development organisations, the Turkish government has successfully provided essential welfare services including health, food, education, and housing to these Syrian refugees. Ten years after the arrival of refugees in Turkey, the emergency intervention repertoire, which aims to support their survival, has gradually been replaced with long-term, more sustainable interventions, which aims at Syrian refugees’ economic and social integration. In that sense, the Turkish government, and other international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), chambers of commerce, local municipalities, community-based organisations (CBO) together with UN agencies and various notable donor organisations have provided both financial and non-financial entrepreneurship-oriented support to Syrian SMEs with potential to contribute to inclusive economic growth in Turkey. 

This research project aims to explore the ways in which refugee entrepreneurship and firms created by the Syrian refugees in Turkey contributes to economic growth within Turkey’s humanitarian aid and sustainable development nexus. The research findings show that the entrepreneurship-focused non-financial intervention repertoire offered to the Syrian SMEs in Turkey includes training and mentoring sessions on different topics, one-on-one coaching meetings together with matchmaking/twinning and networking. Although intermediary organisations have played an important role in empowering Syrian-owned businesses through non-financial intervention methods, redundant and repetitive approaches or mismatch between the needs of the SMEs and the intervention design occur in the field. To overcome these undesired situations and help Syrian entrepreneurs to fulfil their potential, we suggest intermediary organisations: 

  • Focus on the Syrian entrepreneurs’ barrier to the Turkish language
  • Provide more training programmes on branding, marketing and access to finance
  • Conduct needs assessment
  • Organise more business network meetings
  • Prioritise Syrian-led SMEs’ export potential
  • Conduct impact analysis
  • Prioritise advocacy and awareness raising activities to alleviate the ‘refugee’ stigmatisation
  • Establish an online database to coordinate intermediary organisations
  • Establish an online database for Syrian entrepreneurs to track matchmaking and networking events
  • Have an Active Engagement Plan with Stakeholders before deciding on a strategic decision on resource mobilisation strategy. 

Published Date: August 23, 2022