Warm welcomes all round and a brief introduction to Kosovo
Alice Reeves | KF18 | Kosovo & Albania
KF 18 is reaching The Field…
….so first of all I would like to extend a huge welcome to all the lovely people at KosInvest – based in Pristina, Kosovo. KosInvest is one of Kiva’s newest field partners, and everyone here has certainly made me feel immensely welcome from the moment I touched down!
I’m going to take this “blogotunity” to introduce you to a tiny, landlocked state in the Balkans and explain how Kiva is getting involved here for the first time.
Having emerged from the shadow of a war that divided ethnic communities in the Balkans just over a decade ago, Kosovo has the lowest per capita income in Europe (approximately $3000 annually). Kosovo also considers itself to be the baby of Europe – having declared independence as recently as 2008, though this has not been formally recognised by a large number of states, including neighbour Serbia.
Despite this, Pristina is still a bustling hub of activity and the crossroads of many cultures.
Travelling south from Pristina, you’ll reach the Macedonian capital Skopje in under two hours. Travel east and you’ll be in Bulgaria in around three, whereas the same travel time to the west will leave you in Albania. An hour or so to the north lies Serbia, to the northwest Montenegro.
Yet despite its diminutive size, one of Kosovo’s most fascinating features is that it remains the home of an entrancing – and often bewildering – number of ethnic communities.
Kosovar Albanians make up the majority of the population, but Kosovo is also home to sizeable minorities of Serbs, Roma (Romani gypsies), Bosniaks (from Bosnia), Gorani (from the Gora region on the Albanian border), Turks, Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians (distinct gypsy groups who trace their origins from Persia and Egypt respectively). Confused yet? Because I certainly am!
Yet this is where KosInvest is doing some of its most amazing work. Uniquely in the area, they are in the vanguard of initiatives to reach all these different communities through microfinance.
KosInvest also focusses on rural communities, who are particularly vulnerable to higher levels of poverty and unemployment. And with Kiva funding KosInvest will be able to reach a increasing numbers of economically active but low-income ethnic groups. And I am fortunate enough to be witnessing this grass roots empowerment in action, as the first posts made by KosInvest went live less than a month ago.
Because of this, I am honoured to extend a huge Kiva welcome to KosInvest!!
Alice Reeves is a Kiva Fellow, working in Kosovo and Albania this summer with new Kiva partners Kosinvest and VisionFund Albania. Find out how you can become a Kiva Fellow or just more information on kiva and microfinance in general on kiva.org.