March 20, 2023

We asked Ukranian experts for their solutions to economic reconstruction

We asked six Ukranian experts from the government, NGOs, think tanks and higher education institutions for their solutions to rebuilding Ukraine’s economy.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s economy has taken a severe blow, with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) bearing the brunt of the devastation. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has estimated that 4.8 million people lost their jobs in the same time period, while UNDP officials have predicted that if the conflict continues, up to 90% of the Ukrainian population could face poverty. Wartime disruptions and attacks on critical infrastructure have caused a sharp decline in the business environment, making it increasingly difficult for entrepreneurs to keep their businesses afloat.

Six experts from across Ukraine’s government, NGO sector, research and higher education institutions share their thoughts on the question of rebuilding.

Scaling SMEs

Kyrylo Kryvolap, Advisor to the Prime Minister and Co-founder of the Center for Economic Recovery
Kryvolap emphasises the importance of preserving the human resource and supporting SMEs in Ukraine during the war years. He believes that the state should create conditions for SMEs to grow, become medium-sized, export and eventually scale to larger companies, as they will play a crucial role in the country’s economic recovery. As he notes, “We believe that at least half of the recovery depends on the private sector and private money.” Kryvolap also stresses the need for international partners to not only provide immediate assistance but also help develop long-term programmes to support business development and product exports.

Kyrylo Kryvolap, Advisor to the Prime Minister and Co-founder of the Center for Economic Recovery © 2023, SPARK

Job creation

Oleksiy Chornyi, Leader of the Humanitarian Coordinating Headquarters of the Odesa Military Administration
Oleksiy Chornyi is deeply concerned about the high unemployment rate in the Odesa region, which he estimates stands at a staggering 35%. People of working age are currently forced to stand in long lines to receive cash assistance or food distribution, leading to psychological problems for individuals and adding stress to an already struggling economy. To Chornyi, the solution to this pressing issue is clear: job creation. In his own words, “If we help the youth (with finding jobs), then we are not only helping them, but we are also helping our economy.”

Oleksiy Chornyi, Leader of the Humanitarian Coordinating Headquarters of the Odesa Military Administration © 2023, SPARK

Vocational education

Dmytro Zavgorodniy, Director of Ukraine’s Digital Directorate of the Ministry of Education
Zavgorodniy believes that vocational education should be a priority to ensure young Ukrainians have the technical skills that the country’s economy is in dire need of now. He doesn’t only consider the immediate reconstruction efforts but also sees the need to modernise Ukraine’s 700 vocational training institutions through improved curricula, educational processes and the provision of internships. These institutions, he explains, have suffered heavily from Russian aggression, yet have received little of the aid funding, which is often prioritised for schools. Zavgorodniy believes funding streams need to address this asymmetry to consider the working-age youth of Ukraine.

Dmytro Zavgorodniy, Director of Ukraine's Digital Directorate of the Ministry of Education © 2023, SPARK


Anna Gulevska-Chernysh & Olena Kalibaba, Co-founders of SiLab
Co-founders of the NGO, SiLab, which works to promote social entrepreneurship and business incubation in Ukraine, Gulevska-Chernysh and Kalibaba create job opportunities for vulnerable populations including IDPs, people with disabilities and youth. Despite the limited financial support for these sectors compared to humanitarian aid, the pair remain optimistic about the potential for economic recovery in Ukraine through the development of social entrepreneurship. “We believe that by supporting these initiatives financially and providing educational programmes, we can make them more effective,” says Gulevska-Chernysh. To achieve this goal, they are actively seeking philanthropists and European funds. “It is important to unite efforts among local organisations and actors and national and international resources, investors and donors,” says Kalibaba.

Olena Kalibaba, Co-founder of SiLab © 2023, SPARK

Local communities

Ivan Verbytsky, Executive Director of CEDOS
“Real positive feedback from people on the ground is key,” says Verbytsky, the Executive Director of the CEDOS think tank, which is engaged in research on the needs of IDPs in work and socialisation, as well as the reconstruction of infrastructure and social housing in Ukraine. The organisation has helped local authorities in Kyiv, Chernigiv and Kharkiv to rebuild schools and is focused on increasing employment opportunities for IDPs. For Ivan, it is vital to revise approaches to social housing construction and to involve local communities in advocating for the social aspect of Ukrainian reconstruction. “The involvement of local public organisations is a very important component, because these are the basic needs of people that should be a priority for both government and donors.”

Ivan Verbytsky, Executive Director of CEDOS © 2023, SPARK

Western support

Bohdan Ferens, Founder of SD Platform
Ferens founded and runs SD Platform, a social-democratic NGO in Ukraine. He has witnessed SMEs struggle in the face of the economic crisis. As he describes it: “The losses of entrepreneurs due to the war are growing every day.” Despite the challenges, Ferens notes that entrepreneurs in Ukraine have shown a remarkable ability to adapt to the complexities of doing business during conflict. His solution? Support from western partners is crucial to guiding and growing entrepreneurs as they can directly contribute to the economic revitalisation and growth, particularly in sectors that are most likely to grow post-conflict. “Only then,” says Ferens, “can Ukraine move forward and develop.”

Bohdan Ferens, Founder of SD Platform © 2023, SPARK

SPARK is now working with Ukrainian partners to build entrepreneurship support programmes. Business-owners require tailored support to navigate the complexities of doing business during conflict, including training to access new markets, financial support, rebuilding their supply chains, digitalising their businesses, sourcing raw materials and so on.

SPARK focuses its attention on women and IDP-led businesses, SMEs that actively contribute to reconstruction and rebuilding efforts and within sectors that are likely to grow post-war, such as (green) energy, agribusiness and IT. It is also crucial to promote connections and business partnerships and to provide entrepreneurs with financial support in the form of funding and initiating loans.