The 9th SBF Plays Host to Participants from 50 Countries

Messages on economic cooperation and the region’s progress: to have a region which the people want to come to instead of leave it

Sarajevo, April 25, 2018 - The ninth Sarajevo Business Forum gathered the largest number of participants this year. More than 1,800 participants and 225 submitted projects will be presented in the next three days as part of the leading business and investment conference in the Southeastern Europe. Amer Bukvić, CEO of BBI Bank, welcomed the participants at the opening ceremony which was held in the BiH Parliament building.

He pointed out that the success of the SBF depends on the patronage of the Presidency of BiH and that the Forum would not be possible a without the support of the regional governments. He disclosed that this year’s participants come from as many as 50 countries and stressed that the SBF could not be successfully organized without the support of the shareholders of BBI Bank: Islamic Development Bank, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and Dubai Islamic Bank.

The SBF was organized under the slogan "One region - One Economy", and Bukvić emphasized that it sets an example of how cooperation between the governments and the private sector is possible and that it represents the path to success.

"In cooperation with the Regional Cooperation Council - RCC, we want to represent our region as one, and our potential is huge," he said, stressing that we must rely on the workforce in order to achieve permanent macroeconomic progress in the region. He said that young people are leaving the region for the EU countries, which has to stop, and that the SBF is an ideal platform for starting new businesses which can reverse this trend. "We need to create momentum in order to make this area a region people want to come to and not the one they want to leave," he said.

In his welcoming address, BBI Bank CEO also presented positive indicators of the progress made by the countries of the Southeastern Europe. "The number of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the region has increased. Unemployment is on decline. Exports of goods and services in the region are growing faster than imports, particularly in the field of tourism development in which, to use only an example of Bosnia and Herzegovina, we have an average annual growth of foreign tourist stays of 14% in this country," he said.

The participants were also addressed by the President of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group, his Excellency dr. Bandar M. H. Hajjar. "This is my second consecutive participation in this Forum in my capacity as President of the IDB Group. The quality of the high level organization that I have noticed this time makes me affirm that the Forum has become the largest and most important business event in the region, " said Hajjar. He said that the role of the private sector is crucial in achieving sustainable socio-economic development of developing countries. "Promising investment climate, developed legislation, favorable tax regimes in line with global business practices are preconditions for progress," Hajjar said.

"In the past nine years, BiH and Sarajevo have become attractive places for investors from all around the world. BiH is the perfect point for connecting people from the East and the West, " BiH Presidency Chairman Bakir Izetbegović said during his address to the participants of the 9th SBF. He also emphasized that BiH is rich in water, ores, minerals and oil, and that it offers a disciplined workforce and a stable currency.

He said that the situation changed for the better since the state and entity governments started implementing reforms and that large infrastructure projects such as Corridor 5C, Sarajevo-Belgrade highway and construction of the airport in Bihać are expected to be implemented in BiH.

Chairman of the Council of Ministers of BiH Denis Zvizdić also addressed the participants and said that the foreign direct investments increased by 58.6% compared to the previous year, and that the largest investments were made in the manufacturing and banking sectors. He recalled that the total trade amounted to 30 billion KM in 2017, and that the exports went up by 17%. "Our main trading partner is still the European Union, followed by CEFTA countries," Zvizdić said.

In his address Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Mehmet Simsek stressed that a lot of money is available throughout the world, but that it needs desirable climate and, ultimately, return on investment. "It is important for this wonderful country to continue to strengthen its EU perspective. We support the accession of BiH to the European Union and NATO," said Simsek.

The first day of the 9th SBF program included the address by the Head of the EU Delegation to BiH Lars-Gunnar Wigemark. "I would like to see improvements in public administration and the rule of law as well as stronger fight against corruption. These should not act as obstacles to increasing investments which are needed by this country," Wigermark said, adding that it is important for Bosnia and Herzegovina to join the World Trade Organization (WTO). "The importance of regional trade is important, but we must not forget the global economy," he said. He expressed satisfaction at seeing businessmen who came to the SBF from different countries of the Europe and the world.