"CONNECTO 2013 - Business cooperation with diaspora" brought together round 350 participants, representatives of the local business community and representatives of the business-oriented BiH diaspora from over 15 countries, as well as dignitaries from the private and public sector and representatives of foreign embassies in BiH. The purpose of the conference was encourage collaboration and the initial contact and unite the resources, knowledge and energy to local and foreign entrepreneurs from the Diaspora to create new business opportunities and create new jobs.
The conference was under the auspices of Chairman of the Council of Ministers Mr. Vjekoslav Bevanda, who in his opening speech said that the people from this area often went abroad, and many achieved remarkable successes. He also noted that it is important that contacts made at the conference should continue in the future and that should lead to new business ventures.
Among the distinguished guests was H.E. Ulrike Maria Knotz ambassador of Germany, who in her speech pointed out that German investors respect Bosnia and Herzegovina's well educated workforce. She also pointed said that arround 200,000 people live in Germany whose roots originate from BiH and that they may contribute to BiH being in the minds of the German economy.
The guests were also addressed by H.E. Bosse Hedberg, ambassador of Sweden, who has announced the Challenge Fund, which is intended to support SMEs with a particular focus on the use of the knowledge and experiences of diaspora. According to the Swedish ambassador, micro and medium-sized businesses from both Sweden and BiH will have the opportunity to apply for funding under the Challenge Fund.
Welcoming speeches were given by Mr. Ljubo Beslic, Mayor of the City of Mostar, Mr. Ahmet Egrlić president of the Foreign Trade Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Ms. Daria Krstičević, Head of the Office for Croats outside Republic of Croatia.
Participants had the opportunity to see a short film titled "Bright side of Herzegovina" which showed natural, cultural, touristic and economic features of Herzegovina. Unlike everyday black news, the film shows the positive side of the region, quality of life, and the modern industrial and agricultural facilities.
Mr. Mladen Kostic, CEO of INTERA gave a brief presentation of the activities of the INTERA Technology Park. He pointed that INTERA Technology Park can and should be a platform and a partner to domestic entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs in the diaspora to establish cooperation, especially keeping in mind the future of the region in the context of new jobs for young people.
Mr. Goran Radoš presented the institutional framework of cooperation with the diaspora in Republic of Croatia.
As a positive example of cooperation with the diaspora, experiences from Republic of Ireland were presented by Ms. Cairin O'Connor, development director of Docklands Innovation Park in Dublin.
Presenting the economic situation and potential of Herzegovina, Mr. Ivan Jurilj, director of Regional Development Agency of Herzegovina, emphasized how Herzegovina has a very big potential in tourism and agriculture, but it also should not be ignored, but rather evolved graphics and metal working industry.
Participants had an opportunity to hear adn see interesting panel discussions with successful entrepreneurs returnees from diaspora who pointed that they had no negative experiences in corruption, but an obstacle was big and slow administration. Successful entrepreneurs in the diaspora showcased their success stories and opportunities for cooperation through their examples and stressed the importance of cooperation with the diaspora.
During the entire conference all participants were especially delighted with manufacturing companies that are part of the Business showroom in which they exhibited their products. Only products with export potential were exhibited. We wanted to show to Diaspora and all foreign delegations that the production in Herzegovina region has great export potential.
CONNECTO Conference 2013 is part of a long-term project. In the months after the conference thematic round tables will be organized. The aim of these thematic round tables is addressing current business and other issues which need to be dealt with by including competent people, both local and from abroad.
After the official part of the program String quartet fo the Mostar Symphony Orchestra had their performance.
The value of this project is recognized and supported by: Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway, German Organization for International Cooperation GIZ, Foreign Trade Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, OXFAM Italia, Importanne Resort, Mostar Fair, Bossin Ltd., BH Telecom and HT ERONET.
Besides these, it is necessary to highlight and project partners: REDAH, Naša perspektiva Prijedor, BiH World Diaspora Association, South Eastern Business Association SEEBA and Croatian-German Chamber of Commerce.
INTERA Technology park invites all organizations, institutions and individuals that have possibility, willingness or idea to support realization of the conference conclusions, especially organization of future activities in this direction. INTERA Technology park, as an NGO and non-profit organization, can organize business related events of this kind, but that would not be possible without the support and cooperation with donors and sponsors.
We thank to all participants who responded to the invitation to the conference and who have seen the great potential of cooperation with the diaspora.
Special thanks to all the sponsors and partners who have recognized the importance of this conference and their contribution to successfully realize this event.
According to all presentations and panel discussions at the conference CONNECTO 2013, suggested conclusions and recommendations are as follows:
1. On the market of European countries there are a lot of products and services that could be produced in B&H.
2. Members of BH diaspora can and should be ambassadors in the process of changing of the perception about BH products and companies with the goal of business improvement in both directions. Thereby, it is necessary to educate BH diaspora members and provide them as much information as possible about products, services and production potential in B&H.
3. Entrepreneurs can well present their products, services and production potential through regional Business Showroom in INTERA TP in which all necessary information, promotional materials and technical documentation will be available.
4. Diaspora can and should contribute to increasing of export of existing BH products and production capacities. It is the fastest way to create new jobs.
5. Members of BH diaspora can and should be prominent in finding (scanning) business opportunities and products in countries where they live and work, which could be applied and manufactured in B&H.
6. Diaspora should share their experiences, good practices and information from their profession and business sectors with domestic entrepreneurs and individuals (in business, technology, scientific and other aspects).
7. It would be advisable to work constantly (through associations, clubs and individuals) on sending information from the diaspora about second-hand machines and equipment that could be interesting for manufacturers in B&H (because of crisis, companies in western countries often offer technology advanced equipment at affordable prices)
8. It would be desirable that municipalities in the region get investment certificate as soon as possible in order to attract investments.
9. It is expected that municipalities will establish business zones, reduce administration and increase effectiveness in order to be more competitive than the municipalities in surrounding countries. The goal has to be that future investor can get all required information in 24 hours and that the realization of investment will start not longer than three months from the initial step.
10. In order to achieve specific results, it would be recommended that all ideas and suggestions that can have positive impact on employment and competitiveness of domestic companies are sent to INTERA TP.
11. It is realistic and desirable that all parties who make any kind of results related to these conclusions inform INTERA Technology Park, so it would be possible to measure and present the concrete effects each year.
12. INTERA Technology Park intends to, according to its possibilities, work on creating of an on-line platform for presentation of domestic and foreign companies in order to foster business cooperation.
13. INTERA TP will timely inform both participants and public about the next conference - CONNECTO 2014.