After a considerable surge in the refugee population over the past seven years south-eastern Turkey is experiencing some challenges. It is estimated that 90% of all Syrian refugees (over 2.5 million), as well as many other refugees, live outside the refugee camps. They have instead chosen to live in Turkey’s towns and cities, often under difficult circumstances, in order to be within reach of work.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has established a Refugee Response programme to increase economic resilience and promote long-term employment and growth in south-eastern Turkey. The programme consists of three core components: 1) infrastructure, 2) employment and inclusion and 3) small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) development. A key element of the third component is to strengthen local SME support through capacity building of local Chambers of Commerce.

The pilot is run in the Gaziantep Chamber of Commerce (GCC). It is widely recognised as one of the leading Business Membership Organisations in the Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality and has close to 17,000 members and a staff contingent of 80. A partnership between the the EBRD and and GCC was set up to help build the capacity of GCC in serving refugee-led enterprises and help them refine services provided to members in general. The project is implemented by the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) and SPARK.

The first step in the project has been to undertake a needs assessment. The assessment surveyed the GCC’s organisational capacity and evaluated members, i.e Turkish and refugee-driven enterprises (RDEs), perception of services delivered. The main findings suggest that the GCC could do more to target the members needs and moreover do more to empower local/refugee entrepreneurs.

The assessment provided 16 recommendations that will allow the GCC to develop more specific services to target RDEs and aspiring entrepreneurs. If properly implemented the services will help members, regardless of origin, grow their businesses and more specifically support an entrepreneurial culture that will lead to an significant increase in the commercial activity in the region.