News and Success Stories

Private Sector Engagement Propels Seedless Watermelon Production in North Macedonia

In a display of private sector engagement, the Swiss Increasing Market Employability Program – IME has spearheaded a strategic initiative in the sustainable agribusiness sector in North Macedonia. This intervention, employing a private sector engagement modality, sets out to achieve several critical goals, including implementing contract farming model for planned production, strengthening the supply chain, increasing the number of watermelon producers, and providing training and mentorship from seasoned agronomists.

World Tourism Day 2023: Building a more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient tourism sector

World Tourism Day has been held on 27 September each year since 1980. This World Tourism Day 2023, the UNWTO, under the theme “Tourism and Green Investment” highlights the need for more and better-targeted investments for the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN roadmap for a better world by 2030. Now is the time for new and innovative solutions, not just traditional investments that promote and underpin economic growth and productivity.

Empowering Sustainability through Environmental Initiatives: Green Practices for a Better Future

As the world grapples with the pressing need for sustainable development and environmental protection, North Macedonia is taking small but steady steps towards a greener future. Several visionary partners of the Swiss Increasing Market Employability Program – IME have implemented community initiatives for bringing about positive change.

National Geographic – Macedonia: Cat Skiing in One of Europe’s Least Explored Ski Destinations

With it’s origins in west coast Canada, cat skiing is gaining popularity among downhill skiers who want to access backcountry ski terrain without the cost of heli-skiing.  North Macedonia’s mighty mountains offer some superlative slopes. Read the entire article by Rob Stewart on National Geographic HERE.

Digitalization of Authentic Local Brands for Boosted Economic Development

The agricultural sector in North Macedonia remains yet to be fully digitalized. E-commerce platforms are slowly starting to include local agricultural producers in their offer, who in turn begin to understand the importance of basic digital skills and the power of digitalization for boosted economic activity.

Professional Consulting Services Contribute to Greater Business Growth and Job Creation

During the period 2020-2021, with the assistance of the consulting services provided through the Increasing Market Employability – IME’s Pay-for-Performance (P4P) Program, around 40 Macedonian companies secured bank loans in the amount of nearly CHF 5 million.

Creating Opportunities for Macedonian Hazelnut Growers to Export on the Swiss Market

More than forty hazelnut growers were part of two interactive training sessions and on-field visits in Struga and Tetovo for acquiring know-how on Bio Suisse hazelnut production. The knowledge on operating according to Bio Suisse standard brings growers a step closer to becoming future suppliers for the Swiss supermarket chain Coop.

Active tourism cultivates local development and nature protection in Mariovo

Active tourism is one of the key ways to foster economic development and protect the nature of the local treasures of North Macedonia. Activities such as hiking, biking, trekking and canyoning are beyond an adventure for travelers – they are an opportunity for sustainable development of one whole region. And this is becoming the reality for the heart of Pelagonija region – Mariovo.

Digital Adventure Tourism CatalogueDomestic Tourist Destinations for a Different Experience

The Digital Adventure Tourism Catalogue is a summarized and useful overview of destinations and products for active tourism developed in North Macedonia, revealing the huge potential that the country has for mountaineering, mountain biking, paragliding, canyoning, winter sports, rock climbing, as well as agro-tourism.

Enriching the Touristic Offer in Ohrid as the Ultimate Adventure Tourism Destination

The Lake Ohrid region is facing underdeveloped products in the field of active/ adventure tourism. Although this region is the country’s leading tourist destination for seasonal recreational and cultural tourism, adventure tourism products are lacking or are being underdeveloped to be competitively integrated into the overall offer. Increasing the attractiveness of such products is necessary for attracting more off-season tourists.

Nine Innovative Startup Heroes Launch Products at “Tinex”

The culture of innovation and the improvement of the startup ecosystem in the country is fostered through cooperation between the public, the corporate sector, and the startup community. These are the links that contribute to increasing the sustainability level of startups. The “Startup Heroes” challenge, implemented by the Fund for Innovation and Technology Development, in cooperation with the corporate partner Tinex markets and supported by the Swiss Increasing Market Employability Programme – IME, solves the domestic producers’ need for reaching out to as many customers as possible and increase their market share.

Modern Approach to Sustainable Economic Development through Formulating the Smart Specialization Strategy

The expertise of the Swiss Increasing Market Employability Programme – IME in the sectors – sustainable agribusiness, active tourism, and information and communication technology – ICT assists the process of moderating the thematic workshops with all relevant sectoral stakeholders. Through direct involvement and input from the private sector, the workshops continuously define the research and innovation priorities, with the purpose of utilizing the full growth potential of the sectors.

AT_Success Story
Diversifying the Active Tourism Offer in the Country – Embark on a Unique Canyoning Adventure

Canyoning is currently one of the most attractive adrenaline sports in nature. Usually, adventure seekers go to neighboring countries to savor such experiences. “Mountain Solution” saw a clear market demand and developed a new product “canyoning” (river hiking), enriching the adventure tourism offer in the country and expanding the product offer. “Mountain Solution” was established in 2014 as an adventure tourism service provider by Petar Nolev. Nolev used the previous experience gained within the sphere of active tourism to create this brand-new domestic tourism product for the first time in the picturesque location Mariovo, North Macedonia.

AG_Success Story_Naslovna
Contract Production of Organic Pepper: Growing Trust and Success among Farmers, Buyers and Processors

Contract production is the optimal model for farmers, as they have a secure placement, buyers can rely on the agreed raw material, while the state delivers increased food production. The leading role on the ground belongs to – a specialized information platform for agriculture in the country. Through а persistent approach, they managed to systematize farmers, institutions, buyers/ traders, and local government representatives. This has proven to be the best model for Macedonian farmers, creating utmost trust and reliability.

ICT_Success Story
Top-Notch Macedonian Tech Companies Conquer Competitive Global Markets

The Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector in North Macedonia follows the global trends of acceleration, innovation and increasing employment opportunities for high-skilled profiles. Quality products launch Macedonian tech companies to foreign market expansion on a road filled with success and new clients.

The Untapped Tourism Potential of North Macedonia Presented to the Spanish Market – February 04, 2022

Enabling stakeholders to attend international tourism fairs and B2B marketplaces is one of the key strategic priorities of the Increasing Market Employability Programme – IME within the Adventure Tourism sector. Through the support from IME’s Opportunity Fund, Balkan Prime Tours had the chance to jointly promote North Macedonia as a tourist destination for the Spanish market at FITUR Madrid 2022 in the form of an alliance, together with one tour operator – Touring Macedonia, as well as the Macedonian Airports TAV Macedonia.

Sustainable Impact Using Country Systems

Through the support and work in the three leading sectors in the country such as Sustainable Agribusiness, ICT and Adventure/Active Tourism, building strong, transparent and effective institutions is key priory for long-term development. To help relevant institutions in designing, executing, and monitoring the impact of support programs, IME established direct partnership and cooperation with the Innovation Fund towards improving its prospects calls and activities and measuring the results of the support that the Fund is distributing to the private sectors.

Cheers to Nature! How a Local Alliance Pulled the Force for Destination Management and Promotion

In the heart of North Macedonia, Demir Kapija has it all – from rock climbing, kayaking, gastronomy, and excellent local wine to ideal weather conditions for paragliding and hiking close and proximity to the E-75 highway. All that was lacking to tap its touristic potential was a more coordinated promotional approach to attract more local and foreign tourists.

Sparkling Success for the First Macedonian Sparkling Wine: Lazar Winery

Ristov family from Negotino have been producing grapes for four generations but the grape production was sold to other wineries. Up until 20 years ago, when Lazar Ristov decided to start his career as a professional winemaker and established his own family winery, starting with a small production in his family house. The wines were first sold mainly to the small local restaurants and then production slowly expanded with more wines being produced under different labels and many of them going on to win medals at international wine competitions.

Going from Bulk to Final Products – Innovation and Branding, the Road to Competitive Advantage and Job Creation for Agrar Ko – April 28, 2021

The value of a final food product can be up to 85% higher than the same product being sold as a semi-final bulk product. However, the high production costs associated with product finalization restrict many companies from pursuing such an investment. To increase local and international brand recognition and drive growth, the Swiss Increasing Market Employability Programme (IME) scaffolds North Macedonia’s agribusinesses and buffers their risks to invest in developing more attractive lines of retail-ready products.

Ski patrol training in Mavrovo
Lifting Safety Standards in Macedonian Ski Centres with Swiss Support – April 15, 2021

With more than 34 mountains higher than 2,000 metres and the fifth-highest average elevation of any country in Europe, North Macedonia has excellent potential for year-round mountain tourism including hiking, mountain biking, camping, skiing, and snowboarding. However, the lack of comprehensive safety systems at both the national and local/ destination levels is a serious drawback for both domestic and foreign tourists as safety is at the top of their priority list. Macedonian Association for protection and rescue on mountains and inaccessible terrain Asklepij is working to overcome this barrier.

Tourism Challenges & Digital Opportunities: Swiss support for the 5th edition of the Macedonian Travel Marketplace  – February 26, 2021

The 5th Edition of the Macedonian Travel Marketplace, which took place on February 25-26, brought together more than 200 local and international tourism businesses, tourism experts, policymakers, and the donor community. The Macedonian Marketplace is an event organized by the National Association for Incoming Tourism of Macedonia (NAITM). Established in 2016 and constantly growing it became the central event in the field of tourism in North Macedonia. It is the main meeting place for industry professionals to identify business opportunities through direct cooperation and sales.

Open Call logo
Open call for proposals from Business Service Organisations (BSOs) – February 15, 2021

The Increasing Market Employability Program is announcing a Request for Applications (RFA). Under this RFA, IME will support registered business associations and chambers, as well as registered CSOs or registered private companies that are specialized in providing business services to the private sectors in the three selected sectors (Sustainable Agribusiness, Adventure Tourism, and ICT) to undertake a range of activities to address sector-wide constraints. The application deadline is March 8, 2021.

Growing despite COVID-19: Swiss support to the fresh-cut industry pioneer of North Macedonia – January 15, 2021

Food Bar is a small family business founded in 2016, with a niche offering of fresh, cleaned, cut, and packed salads. Under the motto For when time is short, they offer healthy meals on-the-go for busy urban individuals and families. With eight employees and around 30 local fresh fruit and vegetable producers as suppliers, Food Bar was the first company to start the fresh-cut industry in North Macedonia. This industry was only recently introduced in North Macedonia’s biggest supermarket chains with imported products from Greece. As consumers’ demand for the products increased, Food Bar decided to pilot this business and started selling locally sourced fresh-cut products competing with imports.

#ReFRESH Agribusiness & Tourism: two student hackathons organized with IME support – December 14, 2020

With the aim to bring digital solutions closer to the agriculture and tourism sectors, the Swiss Increasing Market Employability Programme supported the Student Parliament FINKI (Faculty of Computer Sciences and Engineering) to organize two hackathons. More than 30 students from FINKI, the Faculty of Agriculture Sciences and Food and the Faculty of Tourism (UTMS Skopje) worked in mixed groups for 48 hours to come up with digital solutions applicable in the two sectors.

Certification Hoyo
Certification as a tool for ICT companies to access new markets and clients – November 16, 2020

Company-level certificates are not just a piece of paper to be framed and hanged on the office wall. Certificates can lead to new clients and markets, and result in an average of 20% increase in sales, as a number of companies have projected.  It can also help companies plan on how to grow in an optimized way. However, many small to medium size companies in North Macedonia often have difficulties obtaining the certification—either because of lack of finance or the absence of an ecosystem that can support from the start to finish of the certification process. IME offers SMEs from the three target sectors the chance to acquire company-level certifications. This is done through the Pay-for-Performance (P4P) instrument, through which IME co-funds the certification and guidance expenses up to a certain amount, through a catalogue of endorsed certification consultants and bodies.

Dlaboka Reka - IME 4
North Macedonia’s Best-Kept Mountaineering Secret – blog by Goran Nikoloski – September 23, 2020

In the western part of North Macedonia, a few kilometers from the Albanian border and Peak Golem Korab, the tallest peak of both North Macedonia and Albania, a waterfall may be one of the most elusive mountaineering prizes. Soaring above hikers at 130 meters, the Korab Waterfall — the highest waterfall in the Balkans — crashes over and thin drape of water falls down from 2050 m, which stronger wind atomizes to left or right side hosing the grass and flowers below.

Fashion at your fingertips: a Macedonian tech company supported by IME sells their product to fashion retailers across Europe – August 7, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the fashion industry too. For the first time in decades, there is a significant drop in consumer demand. Factories and shops are closing due to order cancelations and to stop the spread of the virus in factories. At the same time, the only safe and efficient way is to redirect customers to online shops, a rising trend even before the pandemic.

Macedonian adventure tourism promoted for the first time on Lonely Planet  – August 4, 2020

The Republic of North Macedonia has been featured as a top active tourism destination on Lonely Planet, this being the first time that the country is presented with an individual video on this prestigious travel outlet. The video was prepared by the Increasing Market Employability Program – IME and the Agency for Tourism Promotion and Support – APPT, with the support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Support – SDC.

Sour cherry season as a chance for student summer job: the case of Fruktana  – July 8, 2020

June and July are traditionally the busiest months for Fruktana, a fruit and vegetable processing company from the village of Argulica near Shtip in Municipality of Karbinci. Known as the sour cherry season, this is the time when Fruktana sources fresh sour cherries from more than 50 local growers. After processing, they then sell the pitted and frozen sour cherries in EU and other European countries, Russia, Canada and New Zealand.

NewHashtag2(IF) (1)-page-001
IME marks World Bicycle Day – June 3, 2020

The Swiss supported Increasing Market Employability Program – IME is marking the UN World Bicycle Day with an online initiative “Bicycle because…”. The aim of this initiative is to promote the biking community in North Macedonia – operators that offer biking tours, rent a (electric) bike services, cycling festivals, cycling associations etc., and to motivate the public to cycle by informing them on the benefits of this sport.

Resilience in times of crisis for the Macedonian tech sector – June 2, 2020

Major slowdown or shutdown occurred across businesses as a result of the Covid-19 crisis that hit earlier this year. While some sectors such as the tourism, hospitality and transport were among the first to take the hit, others showed to be more adaptive to this external challenge.

Helping hand
COVID-19 Response: Macedonian Tech Community Uplifts Digital Transformation and Demonstrates Social Responsibility  – May 29, 2020

Seems like the world has turned to the digital as a solution to not just control the spread of Covid-19, but as a way to adapting the delivery of social services and economic activities into a Corona-induced mode of operation. North Macedonia has been no exception.

The future is bot? Innovative services that drive growth of tech companies – May 27, 2020

One of the innovative tech companies that IME supports is MAGIX.AI. After identifying a gap in the automated customer care in the banking sector, MAGIX.AI started developing an advanced chatbot, by using artificial intelligence. IME co-funded this process through the Opportunity Fund instrument.

From Struga to Switzerland: Macedonian organic hazelnuts on Swiss supermarket shelves with IME support – May 26, 2020

The Increasing Market Employability Program – IME connected Nelkoski Organic to the well-known Swiss supermarket chain Coop, who were interested to source organic hazelnut from North Macedonia. While the quality, taste and organic growing practice of Nelkoski’s hazelnut satisfied strict Swiss standards, the company still faced challenges to supply to Coop. Namely, they lacked suitable machinery to pack the nuts according to Coop’s requirements and they requested support from IME to co-invest in new packaging machinery.

photo 2
Joint efforts for stronger tourism promotion of Demir Kapija – May 18, 2020

In the heart of North Macedonia, Demir Kapija has it all – from rock climbing, kayaking, gastronomy, and excellent local wine, to conditions for paragliding and hiking. To improve the promotion of Demir Kapija as a tourist destination, IME supports an alliance of local stakeholders who have come together for a coordinated promotion.

On the road to a vibrant and sustainable tech sector: IME support for ICT companies  – May 11, 2020

The Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector in North Macedonia follows the global trends of acceleration, innovation & increasing employment opportunities for high-skilled profiles. Although most of the companies in the sector focus on outsourcing software services, there is a growing trend of companies that are developing and selling their own products.

cover photo
First issue of IME newsletter – May 7, 2020

We are pleased to share the first issue of our newsletter, keeping you up to date with the latest news from IME, a program aimed at strengthening the business sector in the Republic of North Macedonia. IME’s mission is to create an enabling environment for three identified high-growth sectors: Sustainable Agriculture, Adventure Travel and Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

Enabling small-scale agribusiness to sell “from their doorway” – April 29, 2020

More than half of agribusinesses in North Macedonia are small-scale. These are often family owned, primarily grow for their own consumption, and rely on domestic labour. Many of them grow, collect and/or process products of non-animal origin – from fresh fruits and vegetables to processed products like jams and marmalade, home-made pasta and even beer, often applying traditional recipes.

P4P logo
P4P tool can help businesses that apply for access to funding  – April 3, 2020

The Increasing Market Employability Programme (IME) would like to remind businesses from the three target sectors: adventure tourism, sustainable agribusiness, and information and communication technologies (ICT), that when applying for access to finance from financial/ nonfinancial institutions, can additionally consider using our Pay-for-Performance (P4P) instrument for the application process.

Dry bean production guide prepared with the Swiss institute FIBL – March 16, 2020

IME and the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) prepared and distributed a short guide for organic production for the Borlotty and Red Kidney beans aligned to Swiss market standards and requirements by an agreed buyer.

Open Call logo
Open call for proposals from Business Service Organisations (BSOs) – March 9, 2020

The Increasing Market Employability Program is announcing a Request for Applications (RFA). Under this RFA, IME will support registered business associations and chambers in the three selected sectors (Sustainable Agribusiness, Adventure Tourism, and ICT) to undertake a range of activities to address sector-wide challenges such as limited access to markets, lack of well-developed and competitive products, limited linkages on a regional level, lack of business services relevant to their members, etc.

IME supports Touring Macedonia to connect to German and Baltic Markets – February 28, 2020

Through the Opportunity Fund, IME is supporting Touring Macedonia, an incoming tour operator for cultural, adventure and incentive travel experiences; and a member of the National Association of Incoming Tourism – NAITM. With this support, in January and February 2020, Touring Macedonia participated in two international fairs in Latvia and Germany and held meetings with tour operators from these regions.

Marketplace photo1
The “Voice” of North Macedonia’s Tourism Echoes Internationally – February 20, 2020

NAITM is an umbrella association currently counting about 130 members – from incoming tour operators and guides, accommodation and transport providers, to restaurants, wineries, and museums from the Republic of North Macedonia. NAITM serves as a vessel of the market’s ecosystem by connecting these various players for better-rounded incoming tourism packages; providing a networking platform and representing the interests of the tourism sector in the country.

Promoting free-ride skiing and avalanche safety equipment at Popova Shapka – February 13, 2020

Today, Shar Outdoors – a tour operator for freeride skiing and snowboarding in Popova Shapka and Bogovinje, promoted the avalanche safety equipment acquired with the support from the Increasing Market Employability Program (IME).

IME with additional support for Macedonian companies at FRUIT LOGISTICA 2020 – February 7, 2020

At this year’s edition of FRUIT LOGISTICA – Berlin, the national exhibition stand of North Macedonia was represented by 10 companies – exporters of fresh fruits and vegetables, whose partaking was supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy of the Republic of Macedonia – MAFVE.

Support for Balkan Prime Tours to access Spanish tourism market – January 24, 2020

Thanks to IME’s support through the Opportunity Fund, Balkan Prime Tours have the chance to promote North Macedonia as a tourist destination for the Spanish market. Balkan Prime Tours is attending the 40th edition of Fitur, one of the largest tourism fairs in the world, which provides access to new markets and contacts with tour operators from many countries. In addition to Fitur 2020, Balkan Prime Tours attended a number of B2B meetings with potential partners in Barcelona and Madrid.

Improving safety standards in ski centres – January 22, 2020

Today, the Increasing Market Employability Program (IME) hosted a work group session for representatives from three ski centers – Popova Shapka, Mavrovo and Nizho Pole, the rescue ski patrol from Krushevo, the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of North Macedonia, the Agency for Promotion of Tourism, and GIZ Macedonia.

“Fresh air, ADVENTURE & Fun!” – IME supported campaign for Ski Centre Mavrovo – January 16, 2020

For the 2020 winter season, IME supported Ski Centre Mavrovo in a promotion campaign emphasizing the clean air and opportunities for adventure sports that the centre has to offer. The goal of the “Fresh air, ADVENTURE & Fun!” campaign is to increase daily arrivals to Mavrovo by domestic tourists, but also to attract more foreign tourists from the region and beyond.

Follow-up to the Digital Marketing Bootcamp in Tourism – December 20, 2019

Today, IME organized a follow-up session for 15 representatives from the local adventure tourism industry who attended the Digital Marketing Bootcamp – a marketing training and mentorship program organized by IME earlier this year.

Opportunity Fund instrument info session – November 12, 2019, Skopje

Info session for the Opportunity Fund Instrument providing co-funding with anchor firms, suppliers, and other market actors in the sectors of Sustainable Agriculture, Adventure Tourism, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in order to de-risk the development of new products or services or strengthen the capacity of other supply chain actors in the sectors.

Data as an Asset MASIT Conference, October 31, 2019, Skopje

IME supported the Data as an Asset Conference organised by the Macedonian Chamber of Information and Communication Technologies – MASIT, where 270 companies representing Macedonian ICT industry participated in panel discussions and presentations on the latest trends of the industry. At the event, IME team presented the support and objectives that the program will strive to reach in the ICT sector in the country.

Official kick-off of IME2 Adventure Tourism priorities, October 18, 2019, Demir Kapija

Official kick-off and presentation of IME2 program priorities the next four years, with a special focus on adventure tourism. Ambassador of Switzerland to the Republic of North Macedonia, Sybille Suter, gave remarks at the event, while a tour operators and adventure tourism providers joined to discover the many attractions which Demir Kapija has to offer.

10th Climbing Festival, October 10-13, 2019, Demir Kapija

IME2 supported Demir Kapija 10th Climbing Festival by bringing world climbing champion Salavat Rakhmatov at the event. During the three-day festival, 100 climbers, among which there were visitors Norway, Russia, France, Italy, New Zeeland, Bulgaria and Greece, were competing on single and multi-pitch routes.

FAM Tour, September 23, 2019, Prespa

IME2 facilitated the FAM Tour where 10 incoming tour operators from Skopje and Ohrid toured the farm of Spirit of Prespa, in Tsarev Dvor.