Kukës County is economically the poorest region of Albania, and of Europe, with the economy consistently declining over the last years (with -2.8%, before the pandemic). Educational attainment and vocational training are low, and even those who manage to gain vocational skills find little opportunity to put them to use in a labour market with few avenues for legitimate and stable work. Consequently, most young people from Kukës region have a negative perspective on their economic opportunities, investment is low, the informal economy thrives, and migration rates are high, both inside the country and abroad.
Outward migration to the UK and Europe has become a cultural norm, a ‘brain-drain’ which then further stymies entrepreneurship and new economic activity. Young men often migrate illegally to the UK, and many end up involved in serious and organized crime.
The tendency to massively migrate illegally from Kukës to the UK is fed by three interlinked factors: (a) the social truism that migration is the only viable alternative for short-term prosperity; (b) the poor functioning of the local economy, with limited opportunities for business development and employment; and (c) the eroded social contract between the government, civil society, and the private sector, especially when it comes to local economic development.
"New Perspectives in Kukës" (Perspektiva të reja) effectively addresses these sociocultural, economic and governance factors, creates new socio-economic opportunities and a more enabling entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Through this initiative, Swisscontact contributes to the increase of the employability of people who currently lack skills or access to (self) employment, through training that is tailored to the labour market and micro-entrepreneurship that allows people to economically prosper in Kukës. The project supports the business development and increases employment opportunities in the area in various sectors such as: (agro) tourism, medicinal and aromatic plants, improved agro-processing or ICT-based services, cultivating local entrepreneurship.
An inclusive approach is adopted to understand and address key issues that influence the decisions of young people and families to migrate illegally. It works with them to enhance their resilience to external pressures and empowers them to seize local economic and entrepreneurial opportunities. It depicts the realities of migrant life in the UK and of people who decided to stay in Kukes and build up a decent livelihood.
The project also collaborates with local and national government, to listen to the citizens’ and business communities’ voices and be more accountable. It assists local authorities to elaborate plans and create a more enabling environment for local economic development that can harness the full potential of the people of Kukës.
The project pursues three key objectives: