Promoting digitalisation and tech skills for migrant and female entrepreneurs in Portugal


In the wake of COVID-19, entrepreneurs in Portugal are turning to the rapid digitalisation of business in order to strengthen their own position and aid the national and global economy.

We interviewed Pedro Guerreiro, the Entrepreneurship Director at Associação Nacional de Jovens Empresários (the National Association for Young Entrepreneurs, or ANJE), on the programmes they have been able to offer a diverse range of entrepreneurs with support from our COVID-19 Rapid Response and Recovery Programme with Google.org.

What is ANJE, and what do you do? 

ANJE is an Association which helps young entrepreneurs who want to build companies, start-ups, or promote entrepreneurship.  

Our economy in Portugal is not very strong. We know we need new entrepreneurs so that we have a more competitive economy. We lack investments and capital; we are very dependent on bank loans. ANJE helps entrepreneurs to choose the best paths to be successful when creating a business here, so our work is very important in new industries, such as Tech, as well as traditional industries such as Textile and Fashion. We are very well known for the kind of help that we give to new and traditional businesses in Portugal. 

What is the COVID-19 situation in Portugal, and how has it been affecting entrepreneurs?   

Tourist business, restaurants, hotels, and the service industry as a whole were the businesses hardest hit by restrictions. Textile and Fashion is very important here in Portugal, but so is the shoes industry, and agriculture, also. All of these had problems. The companies that didn't have problems were digital ones. 

We have 100 companies which are in crisis and having to gamble, out of the something like 899 we helped create in 2020 and 2021 with Youth Business International and Google.org’s help. The help that these companies need is with two different issues. Firstly, we help companies that have problems with bank loans and are trying to achieve different ways of gathering investors and so on. Secondly, we help with the digital transition, which is one of the most important themes that we are dealing with today.  

But a few businesses and entrepreneurs adapted well. Firstly, there are the ones that have adopted digital tools to ensure that they can control the relationship with suppliers, as well as implementing client and management control and so on. These include traditional companies from every kind of businesses, like logistics, and some of them in the tourism area, agriculture, heavy industry, and so on. Those kinds of businesses introduce new digital tools so that they can be more competitive. Secondly, we have some digital companies which are creating apps, and we are helping some of them. So, some of the companies thriving despite COVID are very traditional, and some are start-ups in the digital industry. 

“Compared to 2020, we have increased the health of ANJE and the number of businesses we work with around eight to nine times.”

What activities has ANJE been able to do as a result of YBI’s and Google.org’s support? 

With Youth Businesses International and Google.org program, we have created a lot of initiatives. We have learned to hear entrepreneurs’ complaints and needs, so we can identify those needs, and designed several webinars to help respond to them. We also have mentoring and consultancy services, the digital acceleration programme. We have advisory services that we have created with your help. Compared to 2020 we have increased the health of ANJE and the number of businesses we work with around eight to nine times. 

We understood that we had to adapt some of our services through the digital transition, so we invested in digital, although we were a very traditional initiative before. We hope the links we have made to companies that we have helped will be maintained beyond the duration of the program, and we are going to try to continue to help them. 

How have you been aiding the digital transition happening as a result of COVID-19? 

We have created a digital accelerator. With that, we have divided the help we provide into three different aspects:

  1. Trying to understand the problems of each company 
  2. Facilitating and offering consultancy with new digital tools to solve the problems that we have noted that companies have 
  3. Helping create reports with results that allow businesses to have new tools for the future 

Today in Portugal, we are dealing with a problem that is similar to a problem that we had 20 or 30 years ago. Companies started to think and speak about marketing back then, and everyone agreed that marketing would be a very useful department to introduce in companies, but most of them didn't understand that marketing was a philosophy and not a department or a person who could just do the work.  

Nowadays we have a similar problem. Companies know that digital transformation is very important; people know they have to introduce digital tools in their companies. We  explain the importance of this digital philosophy that is being built in markets, and how this will affect the consumers’ and clients’ behaviour. Additionally, we have helped companies introduce tools like Microsoft, as well as other tools like Google and tools from lots of other different digital suppliers, as some of the companies needed to have control in finance and management reports. 

“We understood that we had to adapt our services to the digital transition, so we invested in digital despite being a very traditional initiative before.”

What kind of entrepreneurship support are ANJE offering to marginalised young people in Portugal?  

We have made links to several associations that help migrants. There are not a lot of refugees looking for help when we are talking about businesses. They are trying to get a job, mainly, that's their objective, and we do help some of them with that objective. In Portugal the number of migrants from Africa is increasing, but we are also receiving a lot of migrants from South America, and some of them are trying to create small jobs. 

We also seem to help more women than men; some of them are entrepreneurs who have created their own businesses, and so needed help to think and design these businesses. Some of them have companies with 10-15 employees, and so we also help them with that. 

Here in Portugal technology companies are not working with a lot of women. This is a problem because those are the jobs which pay more. We have a lot of women which are part of our program, and we are highlighting this problem through our webinars, and in the advisory services that we have created.  We’re also thinking about creating new conferences to highlight that problem, and we would love to organize a roadshow throughout the country, in schools and universities, so that we could try to advise women to enter that area.  

What do you think the future holds for small businesses in Portugal? 

I believe that some of the traditional companies will be able to survive but, of course, some of them will have problems. That is why we have tried to facilitate working with digital businesses in the companies that are used to working with traditional businesses. It's not a very easy job to ensure the government invests in that transformation, so we are trying to invest in it ourselves.

ANJE's work, supported by Google.org and YBI, addresses some of the mot prescient issues the Portugese economy is facing in the wake of the pandemic, and continues to work to ensure that marginalised young people such as migrant and female entrepreneurs are given the support they need in order to navigate the fast-paced digitisation currently taking place in business.

To find out more about ANJE's work in Portugal, please visit their website.

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