One year on: Almost nine out of ten Syrian refugees’ businesses are hit hard by COVID-19

Over the past year, 87.4% of Syrian businesses, or almost nine in ten, were negatively impacted by the unprecedented crisis.

With the aim of assessing the implications of COVID-19 lockdowns on Syrian Entrepreneurs in the Middle East, Jusoor and Spark released a new study titled “Relentless: Syrian Refugee Entrepreneurship in Host Countries.”

Two-hundred and seventy-one Syrian founders, business experts, and NGO representatives in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq were interviewed. Some of the most reported challenges by the interviewees were the lack of financial backing, inadequate infrastructures such as internet or electricity, and the growing gap in knowledge.

“This research has shown that Syrian founders, particularly those in the early stage of starting a business, have been particularly vulnerable to the new business climate imposed by COVID-19 restrictions across the countries,” Grace Atkinson, Executive Director of Jusoor, said.

Syrian businesses in Turkey and Lebanon were also more likely to get impacted by the restrictions of the respective countries.

“Like many small businesses and startups around the world, Syrian owners had to shut down operations as the crisis hit. But the difference was that for them, with the absence of any form of support, they have lost the only source of income for their families. We are talking about thousands of businesses who lost years of progress in the span of two months,” Atkinson added.

Based on these findings, Jusoor and Spark request the urgent intervention of refugee-hosting governments and call for the creation of a post-COVID strategy to support job creation and introduce policies that encourage the inclusion of Syrian founders through low-cost business registration schemes. The organizations also invite donors and investors to direct their resources towards small businesses and startups through cash grants and micro-finance.

Highlighted Findings:

  • Access to a source of funds (62.9%) was the biggest challenge for Syrian businesses, followed by location and mobility restrictions (49.3%), laws and regulations (30.6%), infrastructure (30.1%), supply chain (30.1%), and business knowledge (6.2%).
  • 8% of entrepreneurs run their business informally. Of those, 45.6% are home-based, 28.2% are SMEs, 22.8% are startups, and 3.4% are large businesses.
  • SMEs came out worst off in this survey, with 51.30% saying the pandemic’s impact was extreme, followed by home-based businesses (44.4%), large enterprises (38.9%), and startups (31.4%).
  • 35 out of 83 female-owned enterprises that participated in this research had to suspend operations at some point of the lockdown, revealing additional gender-based struggles.

You can read the full research report here.

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