Agribusiness | METRO Cash and Carry Regional Meeting and B2B
REG’s survey on technical needs and requirements of leading fresh and processed fruit and vegetables firms identified a gap in producers’ understand- ing of how to become a supplier to larger retail chains. In response, the REG Project, through AgBizMK, organized a workshop with METRO Cash and Carry, one of the largest retailers in the region.
The activity was held on May 28th at the METRO Cash and Carry Distribution Center in Belgrade. It included presentations and B2B meetings be- tween METRO and eleven large fresh and processed fruit and vegetables companies from Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia.
Participating REG companies with the ability to export fresh and processed fruit and vegetables were able to establish direct contact with METRO Cash and Carry, one of the largest food retailers in the region. Participants also became fully acquainted with necessary technical requirements, standards, and auditing procedures they need to fulfill in order to qualify as a potential supplier of METRO Cash and Carry Serbia.
Agribusiness | Study Tour to Apple and Cherry Producers in Italy
The REG Project organized a Study tour to Italy from June 15th to June 19th to visit modern production sites of cherries and apples, buyout and distribution centers for fruit and vegetables, and cooperatives/producer organizations. Twelve participants attended the tour, all of whom were key agronomists, technologists, and production or quality control managers from leading F&V production, exportation, trade, and cold storage operation companies from the REG countries of Albania, BiH, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia.
Throughout the tour, participants had a chance to observe, ask questions, and learn about cloning fruit trees with higher resistance to pests, techniques for integrated pest management, and growing, pruning, and harvesting techniques for apples and cherries. Participants also gained new knowledge on optimal planting density, technology for achieving production of fruits with unified size and color, and determining the proper ripening level before harvesting in order to secure desired freshness and shelf life.
The study tour addressed best practices in forming commercially viable consortiums, producer organizations, and cooperatives that function as input supplier, consolidator, post-harvest operator, technology transfer center, guarantor for insurance,
and directly promote and export final products with added value. They also gained understanding of how consortiums improve backward linkages by building trust with farmers based on fair pricing for buyout of fruits, provision of extension services, and establishing long term sustainable relations within the supply chain. Additionally, the group became more knowledgeable on mechanisms that can be used in partnership with the community for building recognition/branding of the region by promoting local apples and cherries as part and parcel of overall rural tourism.
This upgraded knowledge and capacity will contribute to improving production of apples and cherries by installing intensive orchards and tech- nologies, upgrading current facilities/equipment, constructing new cold storage facilities, and packaging and labeling products according to highest market standards. This will allow companies to comply with market requirements, thus improving their competitiveness and capacity to approach larger retailers in the region and in targeted international markets.
Agribusiness | Training for Food Safety ISO22000 Auditors Results in 14 Certified Internal Auditors for Agricultural Processors
Fruit and vegetable processing companies in REG countries are struggling to successfully overcome the barriers related to EU food safety and food quality standards. The REG Project, through AgBizMK, implemented a capacity building training for ISO22000 auditors” on May 31s - June 1st in Skopje. ISO 22000 is a standard that integrates both food safety and quality protocols. Certification and/or re-certification of this standard require the inspection and auditing of safety and quality production procedures on the company level.
The workshop included forward-thinking companies in the region committed to implement advanced food safety and quality standards. The candidates from 14 leading fruit and vegetables from Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo were selected based on their prior knowledge of the content and applicability of the food safety and quality standards, and previous practical experience in the application of quality and food safety management systems. All candidates were production/ quality control managers/ technologists responsible for activities related to compliance with food safety and quality standards.
UV Group provided full training materials with all presentations to each participant translated into Macedonian or Albanian. The course and the training sessions consisted of lectures, presentations and practical exercises that were carried out by two experienced accredited experts. The training candidates were evaluated continuously for their individual and teamwork. At the end of the training all 14 participant took written examination for a period of 2 hours, and they all passed successfully.
Having internal ISO 22000 auditors will improve the management from being purely production-oriented companies to being fully aware of food quality issues and able to deal with complex food safety and quality requirements. Being in compliance with ISO 22000 will allow companies to improve their competitiveness and expand exports in the region and in targeted international markets.
IT | EU Funding Opportunities Event
On May 30th, REG hosted a workshop on European Union funding opportunities in Novi Sad as part of the DanubeIT conference hosted by the Vojvodina ICT Cluster. The event included 17 participants from 15 different institutions able to apply for EU programs.
The workshop introduced relevant on-going projects and successful case studies, as well as a presentation on best practices of proposal writing, developing a budget, and constructing project consortia. The event also included an open discussion of potential project ideas, and reviewed several current relevant calls for proposals.
Next Steps for facilitating EU funding opportunities are: to put together the list of the regional network; discuss which calls to pursue with potential project leads and writers; and select organizations to participate. The above topics will be discussed in a workshop at the NIS IT Regional Conference.
Entrepreneurship | Empowering Women in Business Initiative
REG organized a workshop to support Women in Business with Albanian female entrepreneurs, implemented by CEED Albania. The overall objective is to enhance the leadership, management, and entrepreneurial skills of early- stage and experienced women entrepreneurs and managers, diminish the human capital gap between men and women, and increase the number of women entrepreneurs and managers who contribute to the national economies of the region by owning or managing SMEs. The activity was comprised of an opening event and a 3-day training series for early-stage female entrepreneurs.
The kick-off event on June 10th, 2014, was held at the Tirana International Hotel. It was attended by 38 business representatives from domestic, regional, and international companies and non- profits, and it served to identify suitable women entrepreneurs who will be involved in future comprehensive training and learning activities. The panel participants were Mrs. Emanuela Pepkola Zaimi and Mrs. Linda Shomo. Ms. Zaimi, founder of the Down Syndrome Foundation Albania, shared her professional path with the participants and illustrated how her tenacity helped her to launch the foundation, whose purpose is to improve the living conditions and integration into Albanian society of children and adults living with Down syndrome. Ms. Linda Shomo, General Manager of Easypay Shpk, shared with the participants lessons learned during her more than 15 years of professional experience in the ICT sector. Following the two presentations, the event wrapped up with a networking reception.
This training was held for June 24th, 27th and 30th, and was designed in line with the findings of a USAID study conducted in 2013 which highlighted the areas identified by women entrepreneurs skills gaps. These findings w e r e later grouped into three major areas of intervention, each of which became a focus of a single day in the training led by a qualified business professional. The first day focused on basic leadership skills, small-team management, personal sales skills, and the management of micro-enterprises. The second day was concerned with product and service development, how to conduct market research, matching products or services with market needs, and identifying the best communication channels for your business. The third and final day dealt with the importance of building a system for recording data, and filing paperwork and documents according to tax authorities’ requirements. The training was attended by 15 women entrepreneurs.
Follow-up events have been planned on the following topics: Leadership, Management, and Human Resources; Marketing, Product Positioning, Market Research, and Sales; and Access to Finance, Legal Regulatory Framework,and Micro Financial Management.
Entrepreneurship | #SarajevoFTW Winners Will Present at One of the Largest Startup Events in the UK: TechCrunch Disrupt
REG’s second event under the For the Win initiative for investors and entrepreneurs, #SarajevoFTW, took place in Sarajevo on May 17 and 18. Partners included TeresCapital, StartupBootcamp, TechCrunch, University of Huddersfield, Netokracija, and the Embassy of Sweden to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The local co- organizer in Sarajevo was HUB387, and the event was held at one of the halls of their co-working space. #SarajevoFTW sought to provide access to best practices for early-stage entrepreneurs, assist local private and angel investors to professionalize and grow their syndication (investment networks), and build capacity of entrepreneurship community organizers and innovation centers to improve their services, outreach, and effectiveness. The content of the event was enriched by the presence of experienced startup operators and leading industry players, who delivered engaging presentations and panel discussions. Among the more than 150 participants were entrepreneurs, representatives of business support organizations/NGOs, startups, private companies, donor support organizations/ projects, and investment funds from the region and beyond. Тhe winners of a pitching competition on held on Day 1, Light Docs, who presented an online solution to expensive legal documentation for SMEs, as well as runners-up from YuTransfer and Live Good were re- warded with tickets to one of the most popular startup events, organized by Tech Crunch in October 2014 – Disrupt Europe 2014. Networking was the biggest value added activity at the event. Local participants had the opportunity to exchange experiences, pitch their ideas, and receive valuable advice from some of the leading global startup operators from London, Berlin, and San Francisco.
Trade | WTO Self-Assessment for Albania and Kosovo
REG and USAID/ Washington, USAID Albania and USAID Kosovo organized a “Joint Trade Facilitation Self-Assessment Workshop” in Tirana. This is the sec- ond self assessment that REG supported in the region, following one in Macedonia. More than 50 Albanian and Kosovo public and private sector representatives spent one week in Tirana to discuss both countries’ trade facilitation environments.
Although there has been significant growth in intra- regional trade among the Western Balkans, the scope of that trade remains limited; regionally, trade as a percent of GDP remains comparatively small. This deficiency represents a significant impediment to growth in the very small Southeastern European economies, where it can be difficult to achieve econo- mies of scale within a single country. Improvements in regional trade would contribute to coordination among these countries in order to achieve the econo- mies of scale necessary to compete in a global market.
Trade facilitation issues constitute a major barrier to that desired regional integration. For example, in Kosovo, the cost to export a container is twice that of the EU average; also, countries in the region typically physically inspect between 15-20% of all goods, while the EU average is 5%. These barriers make trade more expensive.
USAID facilitated the discussions in order to promote strengthened ties, particularly related to their respec- tive trade environments. As a result of these work- shops, each country will produce an individual country report utilizing methodology developed by the World Trade Organization. The self-assessments are intended to help Albania and Kosovo improve the efficiency of moving goods across their respective borders. For Albania, which is a WTO member, the self assessment will also assist with its implementation of the recently concluded WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.
Tourism | AHLEI Training and Certification
Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI), the non-profit training arm of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), was contracted to im- plement a training for tourism professionals from Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), Macedonia, and Ser- bia. The training took place in Belgrade, Serbia be- tween May 30th and June 7th. The goal was to implement AHLEI’s cascading training model to create a team of master trainers able to help establish a sus- tainable training program for hospitality professionals in the region.
There were a total of 18 participants representing a wide array of hotel types (city, resort, business, leisure, etc.) from each of the three countries. The 9-day training consisted of the following modules: Certified Hospitality Training; Guest Service Hospi- tality Supervisor; and Hospitality Skills.
The master trainers who earn the Certified Hospitality Trainer (CHT) designation are expected to train department trainers, who earn either Certified Hospitality Department Trainer (CHDT) designation or the Certified Hospitality Supervisor (CHS) designation. Professionals in both of these groups then train workers at local hotel sites. In this way, training “cascades” through all levels of a hospitality organization, ensuring a continuum of consistent, measurable training. This training approach gener- ates local work- force development skills and provides sustainable training with both immediate and long-term results for the local hospitality community.
REG’s next step for this event is to develop a medium to long-term implementation model going forward.
Tourism | Western Balkans Adventure Week
The REG Project, in partnership with the Small Business Expansion Project in Macedonia, the Western Balkans Geotourism Stewardship Council, the Western Balkans Regional Tourism Network, and the state agencies in charge of tourism promotion in Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia, is facilitating a 9-day tourism familiarization trip known as AdventureWEEK. The event will take place from August 26th and September 3rd, with each country getting three days of exposure to US, Canadian and Western European tour operators in the adventure segment. The familiarization trip will be led by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), a US-based company specializing in world- wide adventure travel. This activity is a natural continuation of the activities promoting Western Balkans as a joint destination carried out by RCI, the previous USAID regional economic growth project. ATTA will select up to 25 participants, including buyers, media, and bloggers to participate in AdventureWEEK in order to create immediate visibility for the Western Balkans as a travel destination, and promote increased visitation in the medium and long-term. For more information, please visit the ATTA website at: https:// www.adventuretravel.biz/connect/adventureweek/balkans/