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Sarajevo Business Forum: Strengthening the state brand can bring new investments

On May 11 and 12, the BiH capital will host the largest business and investment conference in the region, the 11th Sarajevo Business Forum (SBF), which will present a number of investment projects and business opportunities in manufacturing, agriculture, energy, education, finance, infrastructure, construction, services, tourism and other sectors. Sarajevo Business Forum brings together the most influential business and political leaders from the region and the world, with the aim of presenting business opportunities and investment opportunities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also countries in the region – Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Northern Macedonia, Slovenia, and Serbia.

We talked about the economic potentials of BiH and Southeast European countries with Nedžad Gušić, a member of the board of BBI Bank, which is the organizer of this regional business meeting in cooperation with its shareholders Islamic Development Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and other domestic and international partners.

What are the expectations from this conference?

-After a two-year break caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, the 11th Sarajevo Business Forum will be held on May 11 and 12. Each subsequent SBF was better than the previous one, whether it was the number of participants, investors, or the number of registered projects. And it is the number of registered projects that makes SBF stand out compared to other investment conferences. So, this year we expect a large number of registered projects from BiH and countries in the region. The projects will be presented to investors on the second day of the Forum during B2B meetings.

Previous Forums in Sarajevo have hosted many prominent and influential people. Can we expect some of them this year as well?

-As in previous years, this year we have a rich program with eminent speakers and panelists. The first day of the conference will be organized in the BiH Parliament, attended by business and political leaders from the region and the world, while the second day will be reserved for business meetings to connect regional and domestic projects with business partners and investors from around the world. We expect that international delegations led by leaders from the business world will contribute to SBF retaining the epithet of the best business and investment conference in Southeast Europe.

Can you tell us how many investors and businessmen will participate and where they all come from?

-SBF has its own tradition in the context of investors coming to the conference, but also the support, above all, of governments and owners of BBI, Islamic Development Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank. This year, as in previous years, we expect investors from all over the world – from America to Malaysia. We are still actively presenting the Sarajevo Business Forum and we have already announced large delegations of businessmen from Norway, Bahrain, Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey with their chambers of commerce. We also presented SBF to businessmen from the European Union. The promotion in Oslo attracted a lot of attention from Norwegian businessmen, and BiH was presented as one of the most dynamic countries in the world, which is becoming an increasingly popular place for investment and business. Norway has the best production technologies for energy, and they have announced large investments in the energy sector in BiH. In addition to energy, interest was also expressed in partnerships in the metal and wood sectors. In addition to the traditionally present investors from the Gulf and the rest of Asia, we invited European multinational companies that would cooperate with domestic businesses on the principle of joint investment.

The topic of this year’s Forum is “Nearshoring – a perspective for the region”. What is it?

– We think that BiH can and should be a very attractive “nearshoring” destination, i.e. a destination where foreign companies would switch their production. This can lead to a huge economic progress, above all it can stop the outflow of professional, young and capable staff outside BiH. But this also applies to all countries in the region, as the Western Balkan countries have a tradition in manufacturing, solid infrastructure, and hard-working businessmen and skilled workforce. Developed countries from our vicinity, such as Italy, Germany, Austria or Switzerland, and other Western European countries, have established their business and production capacities in distant countries. For many years, we discussed the transfer of production in BiH, which has not been possible so far. Currently, economic trends have changed this way of doing business and there is interest in moving production to closer countries in Europe, such as BiH. Our infrastructure is solid, we have good technology, which can also be a turning point for the BiH economy. This reallocation in BiH is already happening in the real sector.

Do you have data on how many projects will be presented at this year’s SBF?

-We expect the largest number of registered projects. This year, with the Ministry of Economy of Sarajevo Canton, as a strategic partner, we enabled all municipalities from Sarajevo Canton and Bosnia-Podrinje Canton to present themselves at this year’s Forum. Thus, 120 companies from these two cantons will have, in addition to the presentation of business and projects, the opportunity to meet with potential partners and investors interested in investing in our country through free participation in the SBF.

How many businessmen from BiH will be at the Forum?

– For now, we can say that there is a great interest in participating. SBF is a platform where we can see everything that BiH and the region can offer to business partners and investors. From year to year, the number of participants, partners and investors of the Forum is doubling, and this year we expect a great response. In cooperation with clients of BBI bank, we have agreed with BiH businessmen who are the bearers of the economic development of BiH to be present at the SBF. Businessmen from BiH see a great opportunity to attract investments, joint ventures or find partners through SBF.

BBI Bank and USAID Tourism will organize a special panel dedicated exclusively to the tourism industry. What is the goal of this panel and what can BiH offer in terms of tourism?

This year, the Sarajevo Business Forum will have cooperation with USAID Tourism in BiH in the field of tourism, as one of the key sectors at this year’s SBF. BiH will be promoted as a world tourist destination. BBI and USAID’s Sustainable Tourism Development Project in Bosnia and Herzegovina have signed a Letter of Intent aimed at promoting tourism potential in BiH, and a special panel dedicated exclusively to the tourism industry will be organized on the first day of the Forum. The panel will be attended by key decision-makers from the public sector, as well as prominent global and domestic experts in the field of tourism industry. The goal is to emphasize the importance of tourism as a strategic economic branch for initiating the economic and social development of BiH.