By Anila Hoxha, Raiffeisen Bank in Albania |

In the past few years, Albania has been experiencing an emerging startup ecosystem. Nevertheless, most of the country’s startups are still in the early stages of seed financing.

Lately, however, many private and public players have expressed their interest in funding startups usually in the field of technology and innovation. But financing remains the biggest challenge for the sector, being funded mainly privately by its founders.

The Central Bank of Albania is encouraging this segment by the incorporation of PSD2 into the Albanian law to facilitate the development of future fintechs.

A fragmented series of state initiatives is seeking to support the innovation and startup scene. For example, software development companies have been eligible for tax relief since January 2019. (Co)funded incubator programs (Oficina) for early stage startups, including fintechs, have been established by a number of institutions such as the Harry Fultz Institute in Tirana. Albania’s universities, on the other hand, have yet to become directly involved in such initiatives.

The highlights for the startup sector in 2019 included a number of innovation activities, summits, involving local and international NGOs such as Gizz, The Swiss Entrepreneurship Albania, Pro-Tik Center, ICT Lab and Tech Hubs, which aim to boost the development of technology among the young Albanian population through grants and subventions. Additionally, a few accelerators aiming to boost and support early stage startups, such as UpLift, are emerging.

The local Elevator Lab Challenge, a part of the fintech program of Raiffeisen Bank International, which took place for the second consecutive year in the local and regional market, managed to attract a wide number of applications in a successful second batch conducted during May and June 2019.

The principal fintech transactions carried out during 2018 and 2019, involved joint projects between banks and fintechs related to the launch of a range of products or services on the market. These included Raiffeisen’s cooperation with MPay – whose mobile app KUIK offers an instant peer-to-peer payment solution – and with Symmetric, the winner of the local Elevator Lab Challenge 2018, whose solution Scan & Pay offers a convenient alternative of payment to the clients

As an emerging economy with a young population, Albania clearly faces a series of challenges – but it also offers enormous potential for development in such innovative areas as the fintech sector.

If you are interested in fintechs in CEE, Raiffeisen Bank International has provided a comprehensive overview of the fintech ecosystem in the CEE Fintech Atlas 2018.

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