The 11th Sarajevo Business Forum 2022 was held in Sarajevo on May 11th and 12th, attracting about 1,550 domestic, regional, and global representatives of governments, ministries, and entrepreneurs from nearly 40 countries. A record number of projects have been submitted this year. During the two-day business-investment conference, 313 project presentations were presented, and over 400 B2B meetings were held. The 11th SBF was attended by over 240 media representatives from countries in the region and the world.
The forum was opened by the member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina H.E. Zeljko Komsic and CEO of Bosna Bank International Mr. Alek Bakalovic. H.E. Komsic expressed the need for political and business cooperation between the countries of the region, and Mr. Bakalovic said that domestic businessmen need know-how and access to foreign markets, as well that the concept of "nearshoring" is an opportunity to attract foreign investment. On behalf of strategic partner of SBF 2022, the Minister of Economy of Sarajevo Canton Mr. Adnan Delic addressed the audience, emphasizing that the long-term growth and development of Sarajevo Canton as well Bosnia and Herzegovina requires a healthy and strong economy based on production and development of entrepreneurship, attracting investment, and establishing and strengthening public - private partnership.
On the first day of the Sarajevo Business Forum, regional economic integration of the Western Balkan countries was defined as the most efficient solution for our region. The President of the Republic of Slovenia, H.E. Borut Pahor, once again emphasized the importance of joint cooperation between the countries of Southeast Europe and called on the political leaders of the region to constructively organize and create new investment opportunities. H.E. Pahor is also an advocate of Bosnia and Herzegovina's accession to the European Union.
"I believe that BH should get candidate status without preconditions, and after that the BH authorities should fulfil all 14 preconditions for joining the EU." There is a lot of work ahead, but this is feasible and realistic, so there is political will in Brussels. I know that this is a brave move, and it goes beyond the established dynamics, but this is my invitation to the EU and the leaders of this country, "said Slovenian President H.E. Borut Pahor.
EU Special Representative in BH H.E. Johann Sattler said that the EU is responsible for all issues elated to BH and the region, and that we need to think about how to use business opportunities, despite the disagreements and problems that this country is facing. Croatian Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development H.E. Davor Filipovic said that during the economic crisis it is the common duty of the region's countries to find a solution and strengthen economic ties in the region, as well that economic cooperation in the Western Balkans is one of the key preconditions for economic prosperity. H.E. Mehmet Muş, Minister of Trade of the Republic of Turkey, stressed the importance of the concept of "nearshoring" for the Balkans, and emphasized the regional partnership of the region, because the Balkans are close to the West, but also Asia and the Middle East.
On the first day of the 11th SBF, experts from the region and the world spoke about the economic and social recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic, as well opportunities for a turnaround that can help the region and BH in future development. H.E. Stjepan Mesic, former President of the Republic of Croatia, H.E. Zoran Zaev, former Prime Minister of the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Mr. Sekib Avdagic, President of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (ITO), Mr. Ahmet Albayrak, Executive Vice President of Kuveyt Turk, Ms. Sandrine Friscia, Representative of the European Investment Bank for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, H.H. Zain Al-'Abidin ibni Tuanku Muhriz, Founder and President of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Relations (IDEAS) of Malaysia, Mr. Orhan Aydin, Member of the Board of the Ankara Development Agency and Member of the Higher Education Council TOBB, Member of the High Advisory Board of the OSBÜK Board and a member of the ÜSIMP Executive Board, and dr. Murat Yülek, founder and rector of Ostim Technical University.
H.E. Mesic said that the Western Balkans region is dependent on investments from other economies, but is also dependent on joint political and business cooperation, and that the countries of the Western Balkans should look for opportunities and strengthen economic and political cooperation. H.E. Zaev also called for regional co-operation and supported the process of creating a single market in the Western Balkans.
The second day of the Sarajevo Business Forum 2022 passed through thematic panels and business B2B meetings. Mr. Chris Barton, the United Kingdom (UK) Trade Commissioner for Europe, said the whole world was focused on launching new investments, economic recovery and raising economic standards. The potentials of "nearshoring" in the Western Balkans were presented in a study by the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies. Four panels were held: "Perspectives of Nearshoring", "The Power of Tourism for Economic Development", "The Role of Public-Private Partnerships and Knowledge Transfer in the Private and Public Sectors" and "Islamic Finance in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals".
In the panel "European nearshoring experience", the participants presented their own experiences, and the advantages of investing and reallocating production in the Western Balkans were defined. Geographical proximity, low labour costs and an educated workforce showed up as the biggest advantages of the Western Balkan countries for attracting foreign investment. Additionally, the panellists also pointed out cultural similarities and connections between people as advantages when deciding to invest. The panellists singled out the metal and wood industry sector and the energy sector as the most interesting sectors for investment in BH and the countries of the region. It is also emphasised that Bosnia and Herzegovina needs the support of governments through various reforms that will facilitate the administration, improve the education system, and increase the salaries of workers.
A panel "The Power of Tourism in Stimulating Economic Growth" was organized in cooperation with the USAID Sustainable Tourism Development Project in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The panellists spoke about best international practices and discussed local initiatives to launch investments in tourism, growth, and development with the aim of positioning the country as a globally competitive tourist destination. The panellists emphasized regional cooperation when it comes to the tourism sector, as well the importance of branding a regional destination, which is important not only for the tourism sector but also for other industries. Panellists at the session spoke about BiH as the most exciting destination to visit, but also to invest.
The role of public-private partnership and knowledge transfer in the private and public sector was the topic of the third panel of the second day of the 11th Sarajevo Business Forum. When it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina, opportunities for public-private partnerships are seen in all industrial sectors, and the greatest potential for establishing public-private partnerships is seen in the energy and health sectors, where state-owned companies continue to dominate. It was also pointed out that cooperation between the government and the private sector must be set on a "win-win basis".
At the end of the second day of the 11th Sarajevo Business Forum, the role of Islamic finance in achieving sustainable development goals was discussed, as well as how to use Islamic funding to regulate poverty, social inequality and limited government capacity. It was pointed out that Islamic financing is not exclusively related to Islamic countries, and that it is seen as an important tool when creating synergies between the private and Islamic sectors and development. Following this panel, a new educational platform for Islamic finance and sustainable development developed by UNDP IICPSD and the Islamic Development Bank was presented.
As part of the 11th Sarajevo Business Forum, a round table was organized on strengthening economic cooperation between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bahrain, and a business dialogue with representatives from Malaysia resulted in a signed memorandum on business cooperation and mutual support.