PR & Communication Support
IP-FSS - Ukrainian Buy-In
Learning by Doing
Western Balkans Adventure Travel
Trade Facilitation in 2016
IT: EVENTS IN 2016
In 2016, REG supported 46 ICT related events (trainings, workshops, B2B / trade missions, regional conferences and participated in famous international fairs).
REG support took different forms. From partial cost share of the company expenses for event participation, other times cost share for event organization, and at times only providing a trainer. Of course, on several occasions REG organized large endeavors and entire trade missions to certain destinations.
As REG is a project with a mandate over 12 counties from the Western Balkans, Southern Caucasus and Eastern European regions, some of the regional events we supported took place in countries like: Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, and Serbia. Other events included B2B events and fairs in: Ireland, Poland, Spain and Sweden.
WESTERN BALKAN COMPANIES - TRADE MISSION TO IRELAND
The first event that deserves to be highlighted is the trade mission of the Western Balkan companies to Ireland. Held on the premises of Dublin Chamber of Commerce, the first ever introductory event took place with participants from the Western Balkans, Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Vice President of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, the Embassy of USA and USAID officials from Ireland and Northern Ireland opened the event. Presentation from the Western Balkans and Irish companies and (their case studies) followed. Companies shared their experiences and of practical examples of cooperation. Both Western Balkan and Irish companies showcased examples of established cooperation, based on solid contracts and real IT solutions. Mutual satisfaction from the cooperation was palpable around the conference hall. Participants filled the venue with around 100 participants; 40 from the Western Balkans and around 60 from Ireland and Northern Ireland.
During the second phase of the event, pre-scheduled B2B meetings took place revealing many new business prospects. Initial feedback is that most of the participants felt “cooperation is possible”. So far, we have information that at least 5 companies from the region have signed Contracts for Cooperation with Irish companies. The scale of the Contracts is between $15,000 to $100,000 US dollars. With these numbers, the Dublin Chamber of Commerce claimed the event to be their biggest international event for 2016.
MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS
Another event attended by a number of companies Mobile World Congress in Barcelona; the largest mobile event in Europe. REG supported ICT companies from the Western Balkan region at this event together with the rest of 100,000 participants visiting from all parts of the world. As part of the event, the Enterprise Europe Network organized a B2B brokerage event with over 400 companies from all over the world. Companies from the region had over 200 meetings, out of which at least 20% were characterized as having great potential for future business deals. This event was an eye opener for REG beneficiary companies. Companies claimed that it was excellent experience for both business potential, but also for knowledge sharing. REG plans to support a follow-up delegation to this years’s Mobile World Congress.
As far as regional events, it is important to highlight 2 events that took place this past October and November in Belgrade and Skopje, respectively. Both events supported cross-industry collaboration together with the B2B aspect-enabling companies from different sectors to have direct meetings with the ICT sector.
The Business Bridges 2016 conference in Belgrade managed to attract 80+ participants including representatives of ICT and AG companies, cluster representatives, the Chamber of Commerce and other relevant Government institutions in Serbia. Supported by REG Project, the Serbian Clusters Association (ASKA) facilitated this as a platform for intra-sectorial cooperation. Most relevant national business associations from IT, AG and Tourism sectors as well as the Chamber of Commerce and Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunication discussed current and potential opportunities to increase cooperation between various industries.
In 2016, REG managed the ICT in Agribusiness panel, where the Chief of project development of the Vojvodina ICT cluster provided insights about the FRACTALS Program which funded IT in agriculture projects, as well as, introduced the forthcoming KATANA Project where partnerships will be made between IT and AG companies over development of applicable so ware solutions. The BeeWeb platform presented specific benefits: from adoption of their IT solutions for beekeeping and service in pollinating essential for fruit orchards, to sunflower production, grains etc. thus significantly improving crop yields. (More information on the ASKA Association website - http:// www.aska.org.rs/konferencija-business-bridges-2016/) The conference ended with B2B meetings where AG, tourism and IT companies and had a chance to share and better understand specific needs and potential ICT solutions in their respective industries. ASKA is the first regional association that has different sector-specific clusters - ICT, automotive, tourism, metal, tourism and fashion clusters.
MASIT ICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE & ICT IN AGRIBUSINESS CONFERENCES
The MASIT ICT Chamber of Commerce concurrently hosted the 14th annual conference and the 2nd ICT in Agribusiness conferences in 2016. The conferences took place in hotel Aleksandar Palace in Skopje and was attended by 160 participants. The main goal of the conferences was to bridge the gap between ICT and Agribusiness sectors in Macedonia and South Eastern Europe. REG supported companies from Armenia, Georgia, the Netherlands, Montenegro and Serbia to participate at the conference. Additional guests came from Hungary, Greece, Kosovo and Slovenia. During the second day of the conference, companies had chance for a lot of networking and sharing of knowledge activities. Feedback showed that 80% of participating companies met 5-10 potential clients / partners. Half of the companies in attendance believe they will be able to sign up to 3 business deals with some of the representative met during the conference.
REG is planning to support follow-up delegations to target markets in 2017, while continuing to support regional events for cross-regional and cross-sectorial cooperation.
CEED: Startup Study Tours to Startup Hubs of Berlin and London
From 17-21 October and 14-18 November, REG supported 25 selected startup founders from 11 countries (Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Armenia, Albania and Azerbaijan) to join 4-day tours of key startup hubs in Europe - Berlin and London. The aim of the tours, which were organized by Center for Entrepreneurship and Executive Development (CEED), was to provide startups with an overview of developed startup ecosystems and opportunities they offer for scaling one’s company.
During the two programs, participants had over 30 meetings with various representatives of the business community and startup ecosystem. They met with investment managers and partners of early stage venture funds: Holtzbrinck Ventures, Paua Ventures, Blueyard Capital, Octopus Investments, Notion Capital, Connect Ventures, Atlantic Labs. Participants visited co-working spaces and tech communities such as TechHub, WeWork, and Rainmaking Loft. The program also included meetings with executives of successful companies Rocket Internet and Burberry and the following startup accelerators: Startupbootcamp, Axel Springer Plug & Play Accelerator, Wayra, Hub:Raum, Ignite. Participants also met with founders of startups and companies such as Number 26 bank, Vivobarefoot, Booxscale.
Participant feedback was positive, with respondents indicating that they a) gained valuable contacts and sales leads; b) were provided new insights into raising money, including a better understanding of what is important to investors and the investment process and selection; and c) received an insider view of how other businesses operate and launch products. They were inspired by the openness of the communities with which they interacted. Some participants are exploring collaborations with each other, while others have applied to accelerators and some are even looking into setting up offices in Berlin and London.
IT: TRAINING & CERTIFICATIONS IN 2016
In 2016, the REG project team extended it’s geographical coverage for certification and training activities. In addition to the activities conducted in SEE in 2015, REG addressed requests for support and certification training coming from Armenia, Georgia and Moldova through the organizing trainings and/or covering certifications in those countries.
A special focus was placed on working with BSOs (Business Services Organizations) to organize training and certification services in order to strengthen their links with companies and to establish and maintain services to members that can be delivered in a sustainable way. This model was successfully implemented in 2015 by MASIT in Macedonia and in the Vojvodina ICT Cluster in Serbia. Following this success, in 2016 REG organized joint training events in cooperation with AITA- Albania (2 trainings), Bit Alliance - Bosnia and Herzegovina, UITE – Armenia, ICT Business Council of Georgia, and ATIC Moldova. In addition, the BSOs facilitated support to individuals and organized certification and training for their members.
The trainings were specially designed to meet the specific business needs of the companies involved and aimed to convince them to set long-term training and certification goals. In all of the above mentioned cases, the companies requested and planned organized follow-up certifications and training that built upon on the initial objectives, taking them to a higher level. As an example, more than 95% of the participants in the joint events with BSOs stated that they would recommend the training to their colleagues and to company management for qualification of the employees.
In 2016, REG supported a balanced portfolio of more than 10 IT themed trainings ranging from strategy formulation to managing so ware development (e.g. SCRUM and CMMI); also including technology related topics (e.g. Microso and Adobe) with more than 160 trainees (including the professionals). Trainings and certifications for an additional 150 persons were planned with the relevant stakeholders and were in different phases of implementation. On an organizational level 5 companies were certified and another 15 companies were in process of certification on different standards such as CMMI,
ITMark, ISO 9000, ISO 27000, and others. The relevant stakeholders ensured at least two-thirds of the investment needed for certification and training.
The participants in the certifications and trainings were very satisfied by the approach. REG received extremely positive comments a er the trainings such as:
“I have participated in different seminars, trainings. This one I must say is the best for me because the lecturer really improved my knowledge, I'm really thankful.” wrote a young business woman a er participating in the “STRATEGIC THINKING: Formulate Your Business Strategy and Translate it into Operational Terms” organized in Yerevan, Armenia.
A manager from Albania reported that he received valuable information on “how to improve the effectiveness of the developers in order to deliver the product on time and with quality” a er participating in “How to improve and sustain project and process management?” training in Tirana, Albania. It was not surprising that soon a er, training companies demanded the first certification course on the Scrum framework in Albania (organized by AITA).
A participant in “Using Scrum Framework in So ware Development Projects” training in Tbilisi was satisfied that he had a “Clear definition of agile and waterfall frameworks. Easy to understand. Giving motivation to try new ways of working”. Another participant in the same event wrote: “My company needed the Agile Methodology :)”.
In the “STRATEGIC THINKING: Formulate Your Business Strategy and Translate it into Operational Terms” training workshop organized in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, senior managers from 6 companies in BitAlliance cluster formulated a vision and developed a strategic map/plan “To create and employ, by 2020, an additional 2020 new certified professionals. ” The cluster later requested a follow-up training to address the execution of the strategy.
IT: SUCCESS STORY
REGIONAL STARTUPS STANDING OUT IN SILICON VALLEY
REG’s startup entrepreneurship support activities in 2016 -- under the TRACTION Camp brand -- have again opened doors and created opportunities for ambitious entrepreneurs from the region to stand out and reach new frontiers with their companies.
In April, REG organized the first TRACTION Camp tour to Silicon Valley, taking fifteen regional agriculture technology founders for an intensive, two-week tour of Silicon Valley’s leading AgTech offices, investors, and labs.
One of the companies, Serbian Keeprop from Novi Sad, used the introductions to schedule a number of investment meetings to pitch its investment proposal to leading Silicon Valley AgTech investors. The founder, Bosko Milosavljevic, has since made a number of repeat visits, which has resulted in the acquisition of his first company and an ongoing negotiation for Keeprop with Alchemist, a top-rated Silicon Valley investment fund.
In September, REG organized a second TRACTION Camp tour for 20 regional companies (each represented by two founders) to spend one week with leading Silicon Valley experts. This tour included a showcase for two days at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco, the top startup conference in the world. One of the activities was an investor day, held the day before the conference, that attracted several top global funds like Techstars and Almaz Capital and over 150 attendees. REG found co-sponsorship from Digital Future Ventures and the Ukrainian Venture Capital Association.
Since the September tour, one of the notable successes has been Belarusian EightyDays.me (named Ontourcloud at the time of the tour), which in December 2016 and January 2017 has launched its new flight and trip booking service, becoming the most popular “travel-tech” startup worldwide on the prestigious ProductHunt platform, and gathering worldwide praise, with over 10,000 users signing up on the first day of service.
AGRIBUSINESS IN 2016
InBound Mission for UNIVEG in Albania & Macedonia
In an effort to attract more consumers and attain better turnaround, large supermarket chains seek to partner with full- range suppliers capable of following the strict criteria for dynamic quality delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables. UNIVEG Company (Belgium) is the largest importer and distributor of fruits and vegetables in Europe. UNIVEG Group (www.univeg.com) serves a global customer base across 6 continents and has a network of 32 distribution centers in Europe.
As part of the effort to identify new export market leads, REG established contact with UNIVEG representatives for South East
Europe and presented the general data and profile of Balkan countries in the fruits and vegetables value chain. UNIVEG’s management has shown interest in investigating opportunities for supplying fruits and vegetables from Albania, Macedonia, Serbia and Moldova. However, since UNIVEG distributes to the largest Supermarket chains in Europe, they agreed to consider partnering only with competent companies committed to high food safety, quality and social responsibility standards and the ability to enter into a long-term partnership program with UNIVEG. The project worked through its network and provided a list of potential suppliers of fresh, frozen and processed fruits and vegetables with previous export experience and capacity to respond to UNIVEG’s requirements.
As an initial effort in cooperation, REG proposed an In-Bound mission and on-site visits. The project developed the concept and submitted company profiles of select producers and/or consolidators of different fruits and vegetables including watermelons, plums, peaches, nectarines, apples, cherries, table grapes as well as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower etc. Based on confirmed commitment from UNIVEG from 18th to 21st July 2016, REG organized and fully supported on-site visits and B2B’s with 5 leading agribusinesses/producers in Albania and 8 companies in Macedonia.
During the visits, the regional representative for SEE presented UNIVEG’s fresh and processed fruit and vegetables trade, product categories, main products, key problems/issues they face in supplying fruits and vegetables. Visited companies had a chance to understand their main competitors as well as the necessary technical requirements and standards. Companies organized a guided walking tour through their production and explained processes, operations, and had the opportunity for direct B2B meetings. The In-Bound mission ended with positive perception and interest from UNIVEG to further explore viable supply opportunities for fruits and vegetables from Albania and Macedonia.
After a successful In-bound mission to Albania and Macedonia, REG continued to closely coordinate between UNIVEG and visited with companies that displayed supply potential to UNIVEG’s network in EU. REG facilitated developing product specifications, offered and assisted an initial export sales of 9 trucks of black plums from Macedonia worth around $70,000 USD.
In parallel, UNIVEG’s Regional Representative for South Eastern Europe presented the findings from the inbound mission to its network and opportunities for supplying fruits and vegetables from Albania and Macedonia. However, it was noted that the management of UNIVEG’s distribution centers throughout Europe and supermarket chains they supply in specific countries are not familiar with the products/quality of companies coming from Albania and Macedonia. Therefore, they required additional contacts and presentations to fulfill their requirements before dedicating themselves to long-term partnership.
From October 18 to the 22nd, REG coordinated a trade mission and B2B meetings for select companies from Macedonia and Albania. Five companies: Agrolozar, Permindex, Vittoriafruits and Evromak from Macedonia and Agrokon from Albania had a chance to meet with the UNIVEG teams in offices in Warsaw (Poland), Prague (Czech Republic) and Vienna (Austria) to better understand how UNIVEG’s system for buyout and supplying its network operates, as well as the corporative principles for cooperation and market specifics.
REG presented country export data for fruit and vegetables and assisted the companies in presenting their best. Operations and quality control managers explained the process in buyout centers: from receiving goods from suppliers, quality control, traceability, how produce is prepared, sorted, re-packed etc. for different supermarket chains, like Tesco and Biedronka, and explained the implications of incompliance with product specifications including redraw procedures. In Prague, UNIVEG organized B2B meetings with their representative company Bakker as well as head account managers for Albert Hein/Albert, a leading supermarket chain in the Czech Republic. Participating companies learned about supermarket chains’ current trends in fresh, frozen and processed fruit and vegetables, demand and purchasing dynamics, main products & packaging and specific consumer preferences. At the trade visits and B2Bs, it was agreed that UNIVEG would send detailed product specifications for selected products and REG would coordinate visits for UNIVEG product managers from PL, CZ and AUS to selected companies in MK and AL during the off-season in order to finalize necessary adjustments in order to prepare products and shipments according to required specifications for the coming season.
Azerbaijani companies exposed to new technology & accesses new export markets with USAID Assistance
Study tour to Turkey and Georgia for Azerbaijani Hazelnut Stakeholders
In May, REG continued its successful collaboration with CNFA'sAgricultural Support to Azerbaijan Project (ASAP) aspartofa buy-in for USAID/Azerbaijan. The goal of ASAP is to increase the incomes of agribusinesses and agricultural producers, with the purpose of accelerating the development of Azerbaijan’s non-oil economy). Together, the two projects assisted thirteen leading hazelnut growers to attend an organized study tour to Georgia and Turkey. Farmers were given an opportunity to meet and learn from large hazelnut production companies, growers’ associations, and to observe demonstration plots, hazelnut plantations & nurseries in both countries. They had a chance to ask many questions and took detailed notes on specific actions, timing, and ratios for preparing mixtures of various fertilizers/minerals. Having visited orchards and nurseries in Turkey and Georgia, as well as having undergone an intense agronomy course in Turkey, the Azerbaijani hazelnut growers were encouraged and considered how to apply more intensive planting schemes, use of hazelnut collection machine and dryer and benefits from planting new varieties, potentially provided by Ferrero. This knowledge and guidance was essential for growers to take a more professional approach to their growing operations, improve the quality of products, and utilize more efficient post-harvesting technologies. Some participants have indicated a plan to expand and set up new advanced hazelnut orchards on additional land parcels.
Training in Post-Harvest Systems and Cold Storage Operations - Study Tour to Italy
For Azerbaijani stone fruit producers and cold storage operators, adoption of new technology and optimization of post-harvest operations is a precondition to improving competitiveness and entering EU markets. AzREG coordinated a Study tour for Azerbaijani producers to learn from well-developed fruit chain organizations and relevant support services in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy. Participants gained new knowledge about specific fruit varieties and clones, density of planting and growing, techniques in growing fruits with unified size and color, protection from sunburn, determination the proper ripening level before harvesting in order to secure the desired freshness and shelf-life of fruits. They also learned and observed the packing process, the equipment utilized, traceability system and the organization of quality control under Global G.A.P., organic, BRC, IFS quality standards. Transferring knowledge of modern technology for fruit production, organization of producers and development of co-operatives will significantly help Azerbaijani growers in development of integrated pest management and integrated crop management techniques for achieving sustainable use of pesticides as well as supporting product innovation and improved competitiveness.
The training equipped companies and farmers with knowledge on the prerequisites and procedures for implementation of the standard, including checklists for compliance, laboratory, and product tests needed. Seventeen individuals, representing 16 different firms/sole proprietorships successfully completed the short course and received certificates for attendance of Global G.A.P. training. The expert provided detailed requirements and feedback on the progress and next steps including detailed recommendations the activity helped ASAP Project staff and consultants to learn how they can provide ongoing oversight and assistance to client growing operations that seek to pursue GlobalG.A.P. compliance and/or certification.
Upgrading technology for cultivation of berries
In April 2016, the expert Dr. Michael A. Nichols was again contracted to provide hands-on assistance to help start up an ASAP Demonstration Greenhouse for Berry production, as well as to support several existing strawberry growers in strawberry production and post-harvest techniques. The expert evaluated initial strawberry growing operations in the greenhouse demo and assisted ASAP project staff, consultants, and demo plot hosting to plan the production and transplanting of tip-runners late in the summer of 2016. Existing strawberry growers in Jalilabad were trained on strawberry disease and prevention measures; interventions throughout the current growing cycle to facilitate high-quality and high-yield production. The assignment revealed and provided guidance on elimination of the existing problems of strawberry producers and recommended the most up-to-date strawberry varieties and appropriate sources for their purchase.
Opening New Markets and Achieving Substantial New Exports Sales at SIAL, Paris Trade Fair
REG and ASAP coordinated leading Azerbaijani AG companies to exhibit at SIAL (Salon International de l’alimentation) Global Food Marketplace, one of the biggest and most relevant trade fairs for food processing - held in Paris. At the fair, decision-makers from national and international trading companies, leading importers, and buyers from important catering companies have access to extensive information about food products available from around the world. AzREG managed to secure stand space, registering an Azerbaijani national pavilion at SIAL. The team worked intensively on preparation for companies to exhibit at the fair and provided full assistance in designing and producing branding for the stand, sending samples and arranging other logistics. From October 16th-20th, nine exhibitors and 13 visitors from leading Azerbaijani companies, mainly fruits & vegetables and hazelnut processors, participated in the SIAL Fair. The central location and diverse product assortment drew many visitors to the stand. Exhibitors made useful contacts with hundreds of trading and processing companies interested in buying fresh and processed fruits, vegetables, and nuts from Azerbaijan. Among the exhibitors, Haznuts, Karaja Findik, and Atababa reached principal agreements for new major export deals. Buyers from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Germany, Italy, France, Portugal, and Russia showed particular interest in Azerbaijani products, and several buyers have already made plans to visit exhibitors’ farms and factories in Azerbaijan. In the next few months “tête-à-tête” contacts with importers, distributors and processing industry buyers at SIAL resulted in substantial export deals of at least 374,000 kg and valued at nearly $2.8 million. By the end of November, Haznuts, Azerstar, Khan-El, Atababa, Karaja Findik and Azfem had already shipped at least one container each to new buyers met or with whom negotiations were held at SIAL from the UK, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, and Germany met in Paris. One of the most promising developments was the sale of hazelnuts directly to Ferrero, the world’s largest hazelnut buyer, by the Azerbaijan Hazelnut Exporters Consortium (AHEC). Meetings in Paris helped seal this first-ever direct deal between Ferrero and an Azerbaijani hazelnut exporter. Previously, these operations were conducted through traders and middleman, which dampened the price of the product paid to the Azeri sellers.
Increase of Sales and Exports – Participation at GulFood Trade Fair, Dubai (F&V and Pomegranate Processors)
In order to establish new market linkages and identify alternative markets, from February 21st to 25th AzREG assisted a group of Azerbaijani AG companies to participate in the trade mission and market visit to GulFood Trade Fair Dubai (UAE). The project facilitated 13 Azerbaijani companies and 3 ASAP staff to analyze the competition, understand the trends and meet potential buyers in UAE. AzREG Project contracted a senior expert in Dubai that worked on detecting potential interest from buyers, facilitated visit at Gulfood Trade Fair and scheduled meetings with potential buyers including larger AG/food importers and retailers in UAE. He shared best practices from across the region in branded vs. commodity products and recommended a list of leading importers and traders in the UAE for fruits and vegetables as well as confectionary and chocolate industry for hazelnuts. A retail and brand development expert facilitated the Azerbaijani group’s visits to leading supermarket chains in Dubai, including one of the biggest Carrefours as well as supermarket chains Spinneys and Union. The group also had an organized visit to the wholesale market in Dubai. The trade mission provided an in-depth understanding of what is required for products to be exported to Dubai, product details, packaging, local representation to be able to trade within the region. Participants learned about doing business in the UAE, key players, market channels and options for entry strategy in accordance with company size, product profile and sales opportunities. Although the UAE is a well-served and fairly sophisticated market, direct meetings and discussions with UAE importers and distributors led to new selling opportunities. Three months after the fair, Azerbaijani companies reported export sales to UAE as well as to buyers from Italy, Tunisia, and Germany they met at GulFood for a total of 975,450 USD.
In-bound Trade Missions for Buyers from Germany and Holland Resulting in New Export Sales of Balkan Fruits and Vegetables
Germany is without a doubt one of the most important markets for Balkan fruits and vegetables both fresh, processed and frozen. In the last couple of years, REG Project supported companies at leading trade fairs in Germany: Anuga for processed food and FruitLogistica for fresh fruits and vegetables and worked with a senior German expert/consultant on identifying interest and encouraging potential buyers primarily from Germany and Holland to consider supplying from the Balkans.
In April 2016, the project facilitated an In-Bound trade mission to Serbia and Macedonia for purchasing managers (four German and one Dutch) of fruits and vegetable imports and distribution companies. REG coordinated B2B meeting events in Belgrade for companies from Serbia and BiH and in Skopje for producers and exporters from Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia. During one-on-one meetings more than 70 Balkan companies presented their company profiles, production capacity, adopted standards and certifications, and shared specific offers to competitively supply their products to German, Dutch and other EU markets. REG also coordinated more than 10 on-site visits to leading producers and exporters of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables.
For the buyers, the tour provided a clearer understanding and first-hand experience on the quality standing, business proficiency and capacity of Balkan companies to supply fruits and vegetables to EU market. Buyers were specifically impressed by thepotential for cooperation and continued with negotiation with several companies supplying frozen fruits and vegetables from Serbia, some fruit flowers and organic products from Bosnia and Herzegovina and fresh fruits and vegetables from Macedonia. During the season, some of the linkages established during the trade mission resulted in new export deals. Several companies managed to conclude export sales for fresh and frozen sour cherries for processing, fresh wild garlic, plums and a significant quantity of raspberries worth more than $500,000 USD.
Following these notable results, in November 2016, REG coordinated another In-Bound mission for the purchasing manager of the leading supermarket chain in Germany EDEKA www.edeka.de and purchasing and quality manager of OGV www.oga-bruchsal.de. All these efforts opened new markets for Balkan fruits and vegetable producers and processors, thus creating new more sustainable demand for fresh produce from farmers and secure income generation throughout the value chain.
INTL. Partnerships for Financial Sector Stability:
Ukraine Buy-In under REG
IP-FSS or International Partnerships for Financial Sector Stability(IP-FSS) includes four main components:
- Strategic communication to rebuild trust in financial system
- Development of non-bank financial sector and alternative financing instruments (diaspora assessment)
- More effective financial sector supervision and regulation
- Digital finance technology and innovation to restore formal financial transactions in underserved areas
Component 1. Strategic Communication
The National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) has developed a new vision and mission, and asked USAID to help in developing its new public communication strategies. The cornerstone will be a new website where all users – citizens, businesses, banks, and academicians – can understand more about bank operation and history, and find answers to their questions. IP-FSS helped the NBU to design new site page-frames and offered two special training sessions Writing for the Web and Simple Writing for its employees. The trainings were also repeated for other financial sector regulators – the National Securities and Stock Market Commission (NSSMC) and the Deposit Guarantee Fund (DGF). We trained about 100 people from these organizations who can now build their new sites to help Ukrainians understand and support reforms.
National Currency Campaign
We helped the NBU to produce special media kits – social advertisements, internet video, and professional photos – to promote the national currency (Hryvnia) for its 20th anniversary and onwards.
Under this buy-in, REG helped the NBU to re-conceptualize its existing Money Museum as a center for public education, financial literacy and inclusion. To this end, weprepared a concept paper for this new idea. We also carried out the second iteration of a Financial Literacy and Inclusion survey that USAID had not conducted since 2010. This surveycovers about two thousands of respondents in rural and urban areas of Ukraine.
Component 2. Ukrainian Diaspora Study
IP-FSS conducted an assessment of the Ukrainian diaspora in North America, producing a database of diaspora members and organizations that identified more than 42,000 individuals and more than 450 diaspora organizations. Noted diaspora expert Dr. Liesl Riddle organized and conducted I focus groups in six large cities, and developed an online survey which had roughly 1,200 respondents. The survey and focus group were meant to explore the motivations for investing and toinvestigate models of diaspora bonds that might be supported by the Ukrainian communities in the United States and Canada. A detailed report has been produced for USAID and posted to the Development Experience Clearinghouse (DEC).
Component 3. Financial Sector Supervision
Capital Markets Regulation. IP-FSS was asked to assist the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission in their cooperation with the Ukrainian NSSMC. We organized two training events – one in July and one in September - for about 50 staff members of NSSMC and 100 market participants. To assist NSSMC regulators to understand best practices and share knowledge, we facilitated travel to events sponsored by the World Bank, IOSCO (International Organization of Securities Commissions), and U.S. regulatory agencies. IP-FSS also supported IOSCO in its efforts to provide a regional IOSCO Principles and MMoU (Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding) conference in Kyiv in December. The conference was successful and attracted attendance from regulators from Nepal, Lebanon, Armenia, Moldova, Georgia, and Belarus.
Banking Supervision. IP-FSS has provided several senior international advisors to NBU to provide comprehensive technical assistance and advice related to the challenges of Basel III implementation.
USAID was the only donor who responded to NBU’s request to assist in understanding and regulating Peer-to-Peer (P2P) lending – a growing segment of unregulated financial practice posing a real threat to consumers. IP-FSS provided two missions of senior legal experts to analyze the situation and provide position papers with recommendations for the NBU.
IP-FSS also assisted the Deposit Guarantee Fund in performing the second iteration of a self-assessment regarding compliance with IADI (International Association of Deposit Insurers) & Basel Core Principles of Deposit Insurance. Our report and recommendations were used by the IMF to produce an amendment to the DGF Law.
Component 4. Digital Financial Services
The adoption of Digital Financial Services (DFS) is largely uncharted territory for Ukraine, so we started by conducting an in-depth assessment of the market and existing regulatory practice. Our two international advisors produced analyses of the current environment for DFS as well as options for future adoption based on usage in other countries.
Pilot Project for G2C Digital Payments
IP-FSS worked with regulators and private sector providers to catalyze their efforts to launch Government to Citizens (G2C) payments (pensions, scholarships, government subsidies, etc) via DFS (andin particular using mobile phones). If successful, this could help facilitate G2C payments forUkrainians stuck in war-affected territories. We participated in a number of conferences and task force meetings to provide international expertise and recommendations. The pilot has not yet been fully realized, but we are confident that Ukraine is moving towards this form of payments system.
DFS Knowledge Sharing Workshops
To try to spread knowledge and excitement about DFS solutions/technologies, we worked with young adults and graduates of economic and telecom universities. IP-FSS visited seven Universities in four major cities -- jointly with NBU, VISA, MasterCard, Kyivstar, Life and Vodafone – to offer a master class on how digital financial services would affect business in the nearest future. We reached about 1500 graduating students and professors, and many more via YouTube broadcasting.
TOURISM - PR & Communication Support
Due to the continued support to PR and Communications efforts, REG has turn a corner in achieving real public relations and marketing momentum.
Promotional efforts were already underway in January 2016 at the Adventure Travel Conference and Adventure Travel Show held in London (UK). A special media kit was developed for the event, and in addition to series of individual meetings, a special presentation on the Via Dinarica Mega Trail and Adventure Travel Offer of Western Balkans was delivered to the audience of the Adventure Travel Show. The same promotional framework was developed for ITB 2016 held in Berlin in March 2016. The ITB exhibition was also used to conduct meetings with the ATTA(Adventure Travel Trade Association) promotional support team, National Geographic, Lonely Planet and other travel media outlets.
Together with AdventureNEXT and ATWS 2016 participation at those trade events was directly responsible for stories in National Geographic Traveler, National Geographic Adventure, Vogue, Paste, Intelligent Traveler (a National Geographic publication), The Guardian, Wanderlust, Lonely Planet, and others.
Based on the work done in 2015, REG developed a Social Media campaign. Exposure was facilitated through a continued presence, participation and publication of relevant regional information through the ATTA HUB (forum for tourism operators and journalist) to share information and activities about the Western Balkans and Via Dinarica stakeholders. The purpose was to entice new media markets for the region by providing all information needed to develop stories and making follow-up contact to guide the story process from start to publication. Daily communication about the Western Balkans and Via Dinarica on Social Media outlets maintained a continual audience though relevant social media posts across a number of forums. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were the chief mediums. These posts targeted international and local travelers, international and local operators, and international and local businesses.
The number of articles that REG directly had a hand in publishing for the 12-month period is approximately 54 stories, with several stories awaiting publication at the time of this report. Over the course of the 18-month assignment this totals out to more than 72 media pieces published.
Conservatively, total readership during this time reached approximately 500 million readers. During the course of the year, stories attributed to REG were published in The New York Times (six articles), USA Today (one article), National Geographic Traveler (one article and one video series), and one story awaiting publication in The Wall Street Journal. It should be noted that each of these publications has more than 20 million unique visitors with both NYT and USA Today listing more than 60 million each.
The overall worth of the above stories (all of the above articles were online and in the printed hardcopy editions) equates to approximately $1.3 million in terms of advertisement space.
A figure that is harder to quantify, but potentially more important to the overall success of a project such as this one, is the number of indirect articles REG was responsible for inspiring. This second tier of story is an indicator that the work REG is doing to promote tourism in the region is working and having an exponential effect. An enquiry from National Geographic Adventure, for instance, on what were the most interesting angles to focus upon then created a slew of coverage by blogs and local news coverage. Vogue magazine covered the food scene in Macedonia, which created an uptick in journalists and bloggers, who contacted local operators in the Western Balkans to take gastronomy tours. After the PR consultant helped a German-language magazine with a story about the Via Dinarica, Lufthansa’s inflight magazine sent a team to the region to cover adventure travel possibilities.
The result of such exponential coverage supports creation of a system that is self-generating and sustainable.
The culmination of the PR and communications effort and support provided by REG came towards the end of 2016, as Via Dinarica Trail was declared as the National Geographic Traveler’s 21 “Best of the World” destinations for 2017. Considered one of the industry’s highest yearly honors, the designation, which entire countries compete and work for years to receive, provides instant validation for a trail and a region at the beginning of a successful future.
TOURISM - Learning by Doing:
Market Promotion and New Product Development
In 2014 REG commissioned an assessment that identified main gaps and product opportunities for Western Balkans tourism – mainly, development and promotion of innovative products that relied on the market trends of experiential and educational travel. Starting in 2015, REG developed and started implementation of the Learning by Doing (LbD) model. It continued this work in 2016.
The LbD model is based on the product cluster framework, which builds a bridge between the opportunities available and market trends. In this manner, it facilitates the creation of new programs and activities that best meet demand. For the Western Balkans, the focus was on diverse cultural and natural attractions, so the LbD model would look to allow participants to take an active part in cultural and/or learning experiences.
The distinguishing feature of LbD is the intense mentoring provided throughout the development process. This provides for continuous skill transfer and capacity building for the product cluster. LbD typically involves collaboration between one or more tour operators and a number of suppliers including accommodation providers, specialized activity providers, attractions, local culinary outlets, and many others. The process can be best explained through three stages of development: mobilization (during which the cluster is identified and established), product development (during which the actual product is shaped and any needed training is provided) and lastly product verification and initial promotion (during which the developed program is offered to regional audiences). The final stage – sometimes referred to as the retreat tour -- serves two purposes. For the product cluster, it acts almost as a test tour – an opportunity to deliver and review the program for any fine tuning if needed. For the audience – regional operators and stakeholder from other locations from the region that enjoy similar potential – it is a learning opportunity that will allow them to expand their own programs, or develop similar interactive programs at their own home locations.
REG launched the program with a vision to deliver four pilot LbDs, addressing opportunities in wildlife conservation (bear tracking and bird watching) and intangible heritage (gastronomy and music).
Bear Tracking and gastronomy were launched in 2015, then further developed and promoted in 2016. 2016 also saw the launch of the pilots for bird watching and music-based programs.
In 2016, REG published specially developed Learning by Doing Guidelines as a structured manual that can be used for individuals or groups who wish to pursue the LbD model in developing new tourism products in their own countries or regions. REG also continued to provide technical support to locations in the Western Balkans that wished to pursue developing innovative products and programs based on their specific natural or cultural heritage.
Wildlife Conservation: Bear Tracking
The Bear Tracking in Mavrovo National Park (Macedonia) program was the first of the LbD pilots and completed all stages of development in 2015. Based on that process and with REG’s help, this concept of wildlife conservation for tourism was selected in 2016 as one of the prestigious pre-adventure tours for the Adventure NEXT event (held in Ohrid, Macedonia in May 2016). This inclusion in the AdventureNEXT official program offered the LbD Bear Tracking and Wildlife Conservation program with unique market exposure. REG was able to organize a familiarization (or FAM) trip for a pre-selected group of international tour operators and media. The tour was successful, receiving multiple mentions in regional and international media (even from as far away as Australia!). By late summer 2016, the Bear Tracking cluster received its first organized tours from operators in the Netherlands.
Learning By Doing – Intangible Heritage: Gastronomy and Culinary Heritage
The second LbD pilot was implemented with the goal to channel the unique gastronomic and culinary heritage of the region as a basis for high-end culinary tours and courses. The development of the product was executed in Trebinje (Bosnia and Herzegovina) in 2015 and then furthered in early 2016.
In November 2016, a specialized FAM tour was delivered for international participants, including five Western European tour operators and five members of the media. Through the tour, they gained insight into the gastronomy and culinary advantages of the region through immersive programs like home cooking classes and enology experiences. At the time of this Newsletter, several articles have been commissioned from this program, including in Next Destination (the Netherlands) and the first ever publication in La Derniere Heure, one of the leading French language newspapers in Belgium.
Two UK based operator participants – Explore and Regent Holidays -- have already incorporated gastronomy-based activities into their existing tours to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region.
In addition to the FAM tour, individual members of the gastronomy cluster have strengthened their own program offerings for regional operators, including special programs for tours from the Croatian coast. As a result, cluster members have been able to make investments to expand their capacity, including improved visitor facilities and a family ethno-museum.
Learning by Doing – Wildlife Conservation: Bird Watching
The Bird Watching LbD was launched in Albania during 2016, primarily around the Skhodra Lake. It brought together ornithological experts and tours operators with the goal to develop a highly specialized niche product. This included tailored training delivered through a cross-training model (that had been initially developed with the bear watching LbD) wherein ornithologists and tourism operators/guides attended and delivered presentations at the same training. The experts were able to share their knowledge of bird life and species, while tourism operators and guides could contribute expertise in group leadership and management. In joining resources in this way, this now 17-member strong specialized group can provide a united front to more successfully promote and deliver programs for this market.
Learning By Doing – Intangible Heritage: Trumpets of Guca (music)
The LbD program for music – specifically the unique heritage of trumpets -- was launched in Guca (Serbia) in the middle of 2016. The development stage included intense consultations that led to the establishment of an innovative program of training in trumpet playing, with a special focus on the techniques used by Guca trumpeters. The program offers its participants the chance to demonstrate their newly acquired skill. Depending on the time of the year of the program, it might even lead to performing on the famous Guca Trumpet Festival stage!
Delivered in November 2016, the retreat tour for this specific program brought together operators from Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It also included a product development team from the National Tourism Organization of Serbia, who is considering support for the development of similar programs in other locations around the country.
TOURISM - Western Balkans Adventure Travel in 2016
2016 has been a high point for regional efforts to establish the Western Balkans as an emerging adventure travel destination. This change was propelled forward with the extremely successful presentation of the region in the AdventureNEXT event at the ATTA Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) held in Chile in late 2015.
This cooperation with Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) was continued throughout 2016. At the ATTA Adventure Connect event held during ITB in Berlin (the largest trade event of the year), AdventureNEXT and new regional products such as the Via Dinarica Mega Trail were presented to the European adventure travel and responsible tourism market.
The main event of the year, AdventureNEXT was hosted in Ohrid, Macedonia (10-12 May). While the organization of the event received strong USAID support via the USAID SBEP (Macedonia) and USAID EMPOWER (Kosovo) projects, REG project focused on ensuring that the 25 leading regional tour operators from other countries in the region (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia) took part in the event. Nearly 300 delegates from 32 destinations worldwide took part in this, first of its kind, adventure travel event – the regional industry gathered, discussed and pursued new courses and actions to stimulate responsible tourism development. AdventureNEXT offered a choice of discussions and seminars on key industry trends, best practices and the latest regional products. It also provided a wide networking platform among the regional operators with 43 international buyers (tour operators) and 26 international media groups. Over 40 articles have been published online, in traditional media or via social media platforms, promoting different sites and programs from the region. A majority of the international operators have reported that they are in the process of defining new programs or extending their current ones to their client base.
The effort of continued promotion of the Western Balkans was sustained at the Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) held in Alaska in September 2016. The event brought together over 800 delegates from across the globe. REG support included support to a group of 8 leading operators from the region to participate in the event (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia). In addition REG support included a special Destination Showcase presentation, which in addition to the Market Place (B2B program) table included a “destination corner” throughout the event. The Destination corner in the main lobby of the event provided all regional delegates with a hub for meetings, networking and promotion of regional and local programs. All the supported delegates reported that they had established new business contacts with strong potential to develop new international programs.
Participation at the key ATTA events of the year and the intense PR effort led by the REG PR team resulted in high visibility for the Western Balkans. This in turn has put pressure back on efforts to ensure that the region is able to provide service of adequate quality and maintain its recognition as an innovative destination that pursues responsible travel development. For less established regions with widely known quality standards (such as Germany, France or Switzerland) REG, in cooperation with ATTA, developed a program of training seminars that aims to provide training and guidance in key skills areas: high quality adventure guides and professional business management and operations.
Western Balkans ability to show that the region adheres to the ATTA Adventure Guide Qualification and Performance Standard communicates to the market an adequate level of quality, care and reliability, especially in the areas of safety and service. The first ATTA AdventureEDU Adventure Guide Immersion Training took place in late October (October 25-29) at Mt. Bjelasnica, near Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina). The 5-day intensive training covered areas such as safety and risk management, group management, interpretation skills, navigation and others. It brought together 20 experienced guides from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia who now represent a core body of adventure guides that are now able to respond to the highest and most professional requirements of the market as well as act as mentors to other guides and colleagues in their host destinations.
The training effort was continued in December (1-2 December) in Belgrade (Serbia) with the AdventureEDU Business Training program with 36 operators from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia.
The training was delivered through a series of modules that addressed key areas for successful operation of an adventure travel business such as product development, marketing tactics, operational excellence, business management, and safety and risk management for adventure travel companies. The December workshops were the first stage of the two-legged program. It included the modules of the adventure travel market and trends, operational excellence and business management. The second stage of the training is scheduled for early 2017. After successful completion of the training, all stakeholders are awarded a Certificate of Completion and provided with an electronic seal they can use on their materials or web and social media presentation, thus being able to communicate their ability to adhere to respected business practices.
Caucasus Adventure Travel in 2016
Late in 2015 REG commissioned an assessment of the potential for adventure travel development in the Caucasus area, primarily in Armenia and Georgia. The initial assessment conducted by ATTA indicated there was high potential as well as high demand for strategic development of the adventure travel in the region. To further facilitate development and strengthen adventure travel capacity in the Caucasus area the ATTA Adventure EDU Community Builder session was held in April (18-19 April) in Tbilisi, Georgia. The event brought together a group of 30 ground operators from the Caucasus region with a focus on building the Armenian and Georgian adventure travel market and discussing key market trends and practices.
In September 2016, REG supported 4 Caucasus stakeholders to participate in ATWS 2016 held in Alaska. Armenia and Georgia both included a delegate from their respective national promotion bodies (NTA of Georgia and Development Foundation of Armenia) and a delegate from the private sector (Armenian Adventure Travel Association and Travel Agency Association of Georgia). This marked the first ever participation of Caucasus delegates at ATWS. In addition to attending the discussions and seminars and establishing contacts that will allow for building relationships over time, several meetings were held with ATTA and more experienced industry members such as the Jordan Tourism Board to discuss the strategic outlook when building the adventure travel industry at home.
Following the recommendations provided from the 2015 assessment and the Community Builder effort held earlier in the year REG supported the ATTA AdventureEDU Adventure Guide Immersion Training, held in Yerevan, Armenia (1-5 November). The training brought together a group of 25 adventure guides from Armenia and Georgia, and similar to the training in the Western Balkans it focused on areas of safety and risk management, group management, interpretation and navigation skills. The guide training was also the first ever Caucasus joint-action focused on adventure travel development. Participants highly valued the opportunity to meet their colleagues and expressed that they feel stronger knowing they have a support network to turn to carry the relationship.
Trade Facilitation in 2016
The key objective of 2016 REG trade facilitation (TF) work was to support the eﬀorts of Albania, Macedonia and Serbia to implement the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation (WTO TFA), further simplify and harmonize trading procedures and strengthen coordination, cooperation and dialogue for TF reforms . REG support complements IFC's TF efforts in the rest of the CEFTA region.
By the end of the year, the three countries supported by REG achieved significant results that clearly demonstrate their future determination to continue work on enhancing their trade facilitation for the benefit of businesses and overall competitiveness. Although Serbia is not a member of the WTO, the TFA represents an international consensus and provides useful benchmarks for both members and non-members of the WTO seeking to obtain the economic benefits associated with improvements in trade facilitation. All CEFTA parties are committed to adhere to WTO rules, regardless of membership status.
In May 2016, Albania completed domestic ratification procedures for the TFA, notified the WTO of that ratification, and established the National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NTFC). REG advised on the structure of the Committee, assisted with the drafting of necessary documents for its operation, facilitated the organization of its first two meetings and provided ongoing support to the NTFC Technical Secretariat.
Macedonia also ratified the WTO TFA and submitted the acceptance to the WTO thus officially becoming a member in October 2015. In March 2016, the Government adopted a decision establishing the NTFC within the National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC Macedonia) and made a decision stipulating that a Trade Facilitation Enquiry Point will be established within the Customs Administration immediately upon entry to enforce the WTO TFA.
In Serbia, REG initiated discussion among key government institutions on the optimal institutional mechanism for trade facilitation coordination and dialogue and drafted the decision for establishment of the NTFC that is currently under review by the relevant authorities. To provide for a private sector push, REG supported the efforts of the AmCham Trade Facilitation Group to identify and map trade facilitation issues that should be addressed by the government in order to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of cross-border procedures.
In addition to the implementation support provided at the national level, REG co-organized four regional events with partners from various international organizations attended by a total of 98 participants representing the Ministries of Economy/Trade, Customs Administrations, SPS Authorities and private sector organizations from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro and Serbia.
This newsletter is produced by USAID’s Regional Economic Growth Project (REG), implemented by SEGURA Consulting LLC www.REGProject.net