TOURISM | FIRST PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT ‘TOWN HALL MEETING’ HELD IN MAVROVO, MACEDONIA
A large and continuous portion of REG work in the tourism sector is committed to developing new and innovative regional tourism products in the Western Balkans. Building on previous work, at the end of June REG had developed a total of 37 new tourism products. The products have been promoted regionally at: the Adventure Tourism Event in Nis, Serbia, RCC Tourism Working Group meeting in Belgrade, Serbia, and an Adventure EDU event in Kosovo.
As part of the product development initiative, REG is planning a series of Product Development ‘Town Hall Meetings.’ The pilot activity was held in June in Mavrovo, Macedonia. The town hall meeting was focused on wildlife tourism and was intended to serve as a knowledge sharing and networking event. It was attended by businesses which already supply services for tourism (accommodation providers, restaurants, travel agencies, souvenirs producers and activity providers), and by entrepreneurs interested in developing and selling new tourist attractions. The event consisted primarily of businesses local to Macedonia, but also attracted participants from Albania and Kosovo.
During the meeting, REG regional consultants introduced REG’s work in promoting increased tourism across the region, with specific emphasis on the Western Balkans Geotourism Network (WBGN) and on initiatives particular to Macedonia. Attendees then participated in discussions about emerging international tourism demands, as well as a workshop on the development and promotion of new tourism products. in discussions about emerging international tourism demands, as well as a workshop on the development and promotion of new tourism products.
AGRIBUSINESS | B2B BETWEEN WESTERN BALKANS COMPANIES AND GLOBAL SUPERMARKET CHAINS
Agribusiness companies in the Balkans have limited internal capacity to conduct in-depth analysis of consumer and market dynamics, to understand and fulfill prerequisites for supplying large retail chains, and to establish direct contact with key potential importers. In order to ameliorate those issues, REG, in cooperation with CEED, organized a B2B matchmaking on May 19th 2015 in Skopje, Macedonia with the global supermarket chains TESCO and SPAR. The event was attended by 20 producers, manufacturers, and exporters of fresh and processed F&V and other food products from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia.
Representatives from TESCO and SPAR briefly presented on company requirements quality standards and control, demand dynamics for F&V imports, and general delivery and contracting procedures. Afterwards, attending companies were able to present their product ranges and to discuss becoming suppliers to TESCO and SPAR. Those companies that were already supplying TESCO and SPAR supermarkets in some regional countries discussed possible extension to other markets.
The TESCO and SPAR representatives expressed serious interest in and commitment to continuing discussions with participating companies about supplying fresh and processed fruits and vegetables and other food products.
IT | SEE IT CONFERENCE
The USAID Partnership for Innovation (PI) project from BiH, in cooperation with the USAID REG project and the GIZ Open Regional Fund for Foreign Trade Promotion, organized a South-East European Information Technology (SEE IT) conference in Sarajevo on May 21st-22nd.
The main goal of the conference was to catalyze cooperation among participating business entities for mutual benefit. The SEE IT conference gathered more than 150 participants from ICT associations, mature and young ICT firms, and companies from other industry sectors that use ICT technologies in their business. The event drew participants from Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, and Turkey. The conference featured panel discussions on important regional issues as well as devoted time for more than 70 B2B meetings with companies from regional and target markets.
AGRIBUSINESS | CAPACITY-BUILDING TRAINING ON GLOBAL GAP
The Global Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) standard introduces sustainable farm production methods such as a reduction in the use of chemicals and pesticides, animal welfare protection, and a minimization of the environmental externalities of on-farm operations. GlobalGAP is one of the international standards that food importers and consumers in target markets want farmers and agribusinesses to comply with, so the REG Project, in partnership with IFC Agribusiness Standards Advisory and RECURA, implemented a Global Gap training from June 3rd–5th in Pristina, Kosovo.
The training was attended by 24 participants from Kosovo and Macedonia. These participants included farmers, representatives of agribusiness firms, and consultants interested in acquiring Global GAP certificate for Preferred Farm Assurers (PFA). During the 3-day training, participants were walked through all Global GAP compliance measures then participated in activities to identify control points in fertilizers use, irrigation, integrated pest management, and plant protection, and to resolve specific farm issues according to Global GAP practices. All participants received the official Global G.A.P. materials and documentation in their preferred language (English or Albanian).
At the end of the training, all participants took the Global GAP Preferred Farm Assurer exam. Those who successfully pass the exam will be awarded a certificate which will enable them to conduct Global GAP audits. This capacity will increase the competitiveness of farmers and companies when approaching large retailers in the region and in targeted international markets.
TOURISM | ATTA ADVENTUREEDU WORKSHOP AND B2B EVENT
REG, in cooperation with USAID Empower project and Swiss Contact/PPSE, gathered adventure tourism operators from the Western Balkans gathered in Pristina, Kosovo from June 3rd – 5th for the ATTA AdventureEDU workshop and a regional B2B event.
The Adventure Travel Trade Association’s AdventureEDU training program is the first training program focused on educating specialized adventure-travel tour operators. The AdventureEDU series is part of an overall regional effort to prepare for the ATTA AdventureNEXT event that will be held in Ohrid, Macedonia in May 2016.
During the two-day AdventureEDU event, experienced and successful representatives from adventure travel agencies presented on a variety of topics, including: business management; product pricing; marketing and communication; and contracting. The workshop was attended by 56 operators and service providers from the Western Balkans, all of whom received AdventureEDU certificates at the end.
On June 5th, a regional B2B event was held, allowing the AdventureEDU participants to expand their business connections and practice the delivery of their business presentations. Eleven regional operators form Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia, and 12 Kosovo operators took part in the B2B program. In the survey conducted as a follow up to the event 89% of those who took survey confirmed that they were able to establish new business contacts during the event.
IT | B2B MISSION TO MOROCCO
REG, in cooperation with CEED Macedonia and CEED Morocco, organized a B2B event in Casablanca, Morocco in early June. This event was attended by more than 15 IT companies and business support organizations from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The activity was designed in response to a CEED Morocco report which identified a need for cooperation between the two developing IT markets of Western Balkans and Morocco.
The purpose of the event was to establish linkages and business contacts between companies from the Western Balkans and Morocco in order to spur future cooperation. The event consisted of B2Bs and of in-depth presentations about the two regions’ respective IT markets. Mr. Ahmed Amni from IBM Morocco and Ms. Rabia El Alama from the IT department of the American Chamber of Commerce in Morocco presented on the Moroccan market, and Ms. Smlja Krajinovic from The Vojvodina IT Cluster and Ms. Zana Karkin from Bosnia Bit- Alliance presented about the IT market in the Balkans.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP | REGIONAL WOMEN IN BUSINESS EVENT AND B2B
The REG Project, in cooperation with CEED Macedonia and CEED Albania, organized a Regional Women in Business event and B2B event on June 11th. The event, which took place in Tirana, Albania, was intended to educate female entrepreneurs on regional opportunities and forms of support, and to help them find prospective partners for future cooperation.
More than 60 participants attended the event, and participants included regional companies and organizations such as USAID, UNDP, EBRD, Albanian Investment Development Agency, SEECEL Croatia, and RISI Albania. Although the emphasis in recruitment and programming was on female entrepreneurs, all entrepreneurs from the region were welcome to participate.
The event began with a series of presentations. The first presentation was about USAID and EBRD activities in the field of female entrepreneurship. This was followed by a presentation on the overall business and investment climate in the region. The final presentation was about the challenges that female entrepreneurs face, and current opportunities for growth and progression. After the presentations ended, a B2B meeting and matchmaking event took place.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP | REG HOLDS FIRST TRACTION CAMP EVENT
On June 9-11, REG held the first TRACTION Camp in Mavrovo, Macedonia. TRACTION Camp is a comprehensive workshop for scalable IT companies, and the event attracted 19 participants from Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia. Over the course of three days, six experienced investment, marketing, business development, and management experts from the USA and Europe trained local founders in best practices related to entering global markets with scalable IT
products. The final event of TRACTION Camp was a pitching competition, which resulted in four companies from Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Kosovo receiving prizes from the New Man’s Business Accelerator of Skopje, Macedonia.
IT | EXPORT CERTIFICATIONS FOR BUSINESS LINKAGES
REG recently undertook a pilot activity related to export certification and business linkages in cooperation with the Badden Waurttember Business Bridge (BWBB) from Germany. The program combines export-quality certification with mentoring for entering or expanding in the German market.
Non-German IT companies face high barriers when entering the German market despite the fact that German SMEs suffer from a domestic IT skills shortage. In order to respond to those challenges, BWBB has developed a methodology for training and certifiying IT companies. Holding a BWBB certification proves a company’s adherence to recognized standards, and thus makes them more competitive in the German market.
The certification process is as follows: BWBB conducts a questionnaire-based quality assessment of IT services vendors, analyzing 32 indicators in 8 categories including company/employee information, technical portfolio, corporate governance, data security, marketing and sales, adherence to social standards. BWBB validates these indicators through an onsite visit to the company. Once completed successfully, BWBB generates a certificate and publishes the company online in a directory of certified vendors. This certification process is augmented by a 2-day extensive mentoring workshop on entering and expanding in the German market.
BWBB has already certified one regional company under the program and is in the process of certifying five more. Companies currently taking part in this pilot are: Exekom in Serbia (already certified); ikubINFO from Albania; Infonet, Ping and Loopfrom BiH; and SIMT from Macedonia.