TURKEY

Dutch NGO hails Turkey’s support for refugee businesses

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Director of a non-profit Dutch organization praised Turkey's efforts as a host community to encourage the economic activities of Syrians.

Yanick Du Pont, founder and director of Spark, said the Turkish system "is by far the most successful" in supporting the Syrians for building entrepreneurship and businesses, compared to other countries in the region.

Du Pont made his remark for Anadolu Agency on the sidelines of a two-day conference in Istanbul which discussed the participation of young refugees in the economy of the host communities.

"At least you can get a permit, at least you can start a business, I can give you examples in other countries where you cannot get these permissions. So I think it's the best practice," he said.

Turkey currently hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world.

The two-day conference, which started on Thursday, was held with the partnership of the Dutch International NGO Spark and Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), with the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD) and the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry as sponsors.

Working on education, job creation

Speaking about the NGO's works, Du Pont said that it operates in 15 conflict-affected states, "where it concentrates on two goals: creating jobs for young people through supporting companies which hire them and providing them with the right skills to be hired."

In Turkey, the organization primarily works for providing scholarships for both the young Syrians and Turkish people to support social cohesion and provide bigger opportunities and cooperation between the hosting community and the refugees, the NGO director said.

"A few thousand Syrians and some Turkish students are getting scholarships, some are monthly payments, we pay tuitions and support the universities in absorbing them, that's the main goal of our work," he said.

Also speaking about the job creation for students in their program, Du Pont said that the transition process from education to work is "rapidly growing" in Turkey.

"We are moving more into the priority of the Turkish government, which is creating jobs and economic prospects for both the host community and refugees. That's going to be the future of our work," he added.

Du Pont said Spark is working on other projects in Turkey as well.

Among them are short-term courses in the agriculture sector to be held in cooperation with Qatar Fund for Development and a new initiative with ING Bank to be launched for providing loans for Syrians.

He also said that the organization is helping its students by supporting their entrepreneurship and providing work opportunities in cooperation with the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB), Turkey's Council of Higher Education (YÖK), and Turkish universities.

"That's actually our model, that's the model of Spark," he said.

Female participation

Speaking about the scholarships, Du Pont said that there are nearly 50% female students attending the program.

"It does mean that we have to put some extra effort sometimes for getting more women in the program, the applications of men outnumber women's."

Du Pont said that Spark is also working on reaching the target of 50% female rate in entrepreneurship.

"With entrepreneurship you face also other cultural norms," he said, mentioning the lowest participation rate of women in the economy in the Middle Eastern region.

"That means that we have to adjust our programs to that, we organize special transport for women, we organize special women entrepreneurship, in some areas we promote certain types of economic activities like bee keeping for example," he added.

The key point is to promote economic activities which are easier to access and pursue them for women entrepreneurs, he concluded.

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