SARAJEVO, October 17 (FENA) – This year, there has been a significant increase in the interest of the diaspora in investing in Bosnia and Herzegovina, unlike the period at the very beginning of the pandemic when the interest of the diaspora declined, said in an interview with FENA the head of the Business Center of the BiH Diaspora Armin Alijagić.
Alijagić is of the opinion that next year this interest is expected to be at the pre-pandemic level, and even higher.
Speaking about how the pandemic affected the business of companies that were initiated by investments from the diaspora, Alijagić states that the BiH Diaspora Business Center in 2020 conducted a survey among 32 companies.
“The results surprised us and it was a positive surprise. Eighteen out of 32 companies plan to keep the same number of employees as in 2019, and ten of them intend to increase the number of employees. Only four plan to reduce the number of employees.
Also, 13 of the 32 companies plan to maintain the same level of investment as in 2019, ten plan to increase and nine to decrease investment. Slightly less than half of them expect a partial change of business, while seven expect significant changes in this segment,” said Alijagić.
This research has shown, as he emphasized, that investments of the BiH diaspora remain one of the key drivers of the local economy. Also, the data from this research indicate that companies initiated by this type of investment do not plan to quit their jobs, lay off workers en masse, or give up on their plans, which, says Alijagić, is an important message.
Sectors for which the BiH diaspora is most interested is IT, especially the gaming industry, which experienced great growth during the pandemic, also the metal, construction and tourism sectors, which, according to Alijagić, are planning their big come-back next year.
He points out that the Business Center has provided support to more than 300 investors from the diaspora in the past four years, as well as to numerous domestic businesses that are looking for business partners in the diaspora.
The center is also supported by the USAID Diaspora Invest project, which has provided support to more than 170 companies over the past 4.5 years, generated USD 20 million in diaspora investments and helped create more than 400 new jobs.
Speaking about the support of the BiH institutions when it comes to diaspora investment and business opportunities, Alijagić estimates that this support is better compared to the period a few years ago. However, he underlines, a lot can still be improved, especially when it comes to better development and promotion of investment projects to the diaspora.
“I think that financial instruments need to be adjusted to the needs of investors from the diaspora, such as special credit lines, investment funds and the like,” added Alijagić.
The center, which acts as a one-stop-shop, provides information and support services to investors from the diaspora, whether it is support in company registration, business planning or consulting.
“This year, the Center launched several pilot activities. We implemented a summer internship program for young people from the diaspora, through which we initially enabled the internship of five young people from the diaspora in domestic companies. Impressions of interns and companies were very positive and the Center will continue with this program in the future,” said Alijagić.
In addition, the Business Center also launched the Diaspora Sales Agents Program. It is recognized, he explains, that our people abroad are very well connected and that they can provide support to domestic companies in entering foreign markets. For the beginning, this program will also hire five sales agents who will have their first visit to BiH during October and November this year.
Also, the Diaspora Mentoring Program will enable five experts from the diaspora to act as mentors to domestic companies and provide them with support in order for them to develop and grow faster.
“The first mentorships are expected to begin in November. With this program, we want to activate the resource of knowledge that is underused, and which the diaspora possesses to a large extent, and is ready to share it with us who live in BiH,” Alijagić points out.
As a result of this cooperation, the Diaspora Business Center will develop a guide for the effective involvement of the diaspora in the development of places of origin, which will also serve as an example to other municipalities on how to build trust and cooperation with their diaspora.