Russia's creeping invasion of Ukraine has created new challenges for the economy. The decline in Ukraine's GDP by the end of 2022 is estimated at 30.4%, which is better that was predicted. This was reported by the Ukrainian Ministry of Economy. In comparison, the 50% decline in Ukraine's economy after the collapse of the USSR and independence took six years - from 1993 to 1999. All other crises - the global financial crisis in 2008, the start of the war in 2014, the coronavirus pandemic - resulted in a much smaller drop in Ukraine's GDP - no more than 15%.
These figures show that the Ukrainian economy has gone through a dramatic period of testing and change since the start of the war.
We need working methods for Ukrainian companies to find their place on the global market today, and for foreign companies to come to Ukraine as soon as there is a real opportunity to do so.
Global Business for Ukraine is an extraterritorial organisation that is a continuation of the European Business Association (EBA - the largest association of foreign, European and domestic businesses in Ukraine) on the international arena.
The main task of GB4U is to create a platform for communication and sharing experience between representatives of Ukrainian and global business, disseminating information about business opportunities in Ukraine, assisting global companies in finding business partners and other stakeholders in Ukraine, helping attract investment for the recovery and reconstruction of Ukraine.
We are going to talk with Anna Derevyanko, public figure, Executive Director of EBA and co-founder of Global Business for Ukraine, about ways to overcome the problems of Ukrainian business caused by the war, search for development directions and how to effectively present the economic and business opportunities of Ukraine to foreigners.
Anna Derevyanko, Executive Director of the European Business Association since 2003
EBA is one of the largest business associations in the country. Under her leadership, the Association has grown almost fourfold, uniting around 1,000 companies operating in Ukraine and creating more than 2 million jobs in Ukraine - giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to talk about the issues that affect them and to jointly protect their legitimate interests. Also, to learn (the Association has a Professional Development Centre) and to get to know each other. The association also has 4 regional branches (Dnipro, Lviv, Odesa and Kharkiv) so the voice of business is heard in the regions. Anna is a member of the Raiffeisen Bank Supervisory Board, the Advisory Board of Vacuum Deep Tech and the Board of GLOBSEC.
Please tell us about GB4U platform and its history. What exactly is this project and what is it aimed at?
Since the start of the war, our team has been actively thinking about what new and useful things we can offer the business community to help them succeed in this difficult time. This is especially true for Ukrainian businesses. My team and I recently visited many countries and came to a disappointing conclusion - Ukraine is still known for large-scale corruption, crisis and war. At the same time, there is very little information among Europeans that we have a really strong and creative business. I believe that our task is to tell the world community that Ukraine is first and foremost a country of great opportunities for your business, not something negative. That is why GB4U is, on one hand, a platform for foreign companies that are not yet represented in Ukraine. We will help companies understand exactly what awaits them in our country. On the other hand, we will strive to provide Ukrainian companies entering the global market with as much information as possible about the mechanisms of their support abroad, possible partners and attracting financing. At this stage, GB4U will, so to speak, bring partners together or help find financing to implement certain projects. The platform is a two-way road. We will help global companies to come to Ukraine and Ukrainian companies to come to the global market. I hope that together with diplomatic missions we will strengthen this direction and implement the so-called economic diplomacy. When the war is over, the process of global companies entering the Ukrainian market, as well as Ukrainian companies entering the global market, will be crazy.
How can a company become a GB4U member?
We are open to anyone who wants to develop and change for the better. GB4U can include companies of all sizes and from all sectors. After all, our main goal is to bring as many global companies to Ukraine as possible and, vice versa, to help as many Ukrainian companies as possible to enter world markets.Today we have the first ten participants and they are all different. There are multinational companies with offices all over the world, and there are Ukrainian start-ups that are just trying to enter the global market. So any company can become a member of GB4U.
Apart from the war, what are the main obstacles for foreign companies entering Ukraine today?
No matter how Ukrainian bureaucracy and corruption frightens foreigners, the main negative factor in the way of foreign capital is the war. But in fact there are sectors in today's Ukraine that have developed under such difficult conditions. For example, de-mining companies have never came to Ukraine before, but after the start of active military operations, most of our territory is contaminated with mines, so this business will be successful if it doesn't sound scary. Other companies connected with security in one way or another will also be able to enter the Ukrainian market and have prospects. All the others will do it later, after our victory and the end of active military operations. Today, they are mostly afraid to take this step, although they are still actively interested in many directions. At one of the conferences in Spain, representatives of the agricultural industry asked many questions about the Ukrainian market. But now, in addition to the war, they are scared off by the fact that foreigners cannot buy land in Ukraine at the moment. So they are studying our market, but for now they are waiting. There are, of course, certain regulatory barriers. Stories of rampant corruption are frightening. That is why we need to create a positive image of the state capabilities and the domestic business climate, so that people are not afraid to invest money in Ukraine. They need to know that you can easily make money here, develop your business and everything will be fine. When contacted, we at GB4U do everything we can to ensure that companies receive all the information and services they need.
How would you characterise a Ukrainian businessman who wants to enter the international market?
First of all, it is an exporter who produces something in Ukraine and has little information about what is going on in foreign markets. The second is a young start-up that lacks funds for development. Today it can also be a person who has gone abroad, has some capital and is thinking about where to invest it. They also need more information about where to go and what to do in a particular country. GB4U aims to help in such cases. For example, Ukrainians are used to being more active after having business meetings. Europeans are a bit different. They plan their work well in advance. It happens that we meet, talk, express interest and willingness to cooperate, and the next meeting is offered in a few months. For them, this is the norm. But it is important to understand that even if companies do not respond, it does not mean that they are not interested. Keep knocking on the door and remindining. Of course, all this should be done correctly and elegantly. Ukrainian companies should be informed about such nuances so that they do not give up after a certain experience and continue their business abroad.
Please tell us how the transition to an international business format has been for you personally? It is clear that starting a new business abroad under such stressful conditions is, without exaggeration, a personal challenge.
Any new direction requires a lot of physical strength and time. Today, GB4U is both difficult to develop and interesting and exciting. We face many challenges that require a lot of effort. One of the main tasks in this project is to create a business core in each country around the Ukrainian direction. Create a pool of global companies and interest them in the Ukrainian market and help our businesses to implement their projects. Today it is still a hobby, as our activity is possible because such a powerful structure as the European Business Association bears all the financial costs. But our goal is to make GB4U a self-sustaining project in each country.
Are there any recent examples of Ukrainian companies entering the European market?
There have been some successes. For example, we can mention the start-up CheckEye (check-eye.com) - a very promising and useful technology. It uses artificial intelligence to carry out an eye diagnosis based on a photo, and almost instantly gives a conclusion about the real state of your vision, what the problems are, and so on. This startup is currently in clinical trials, but I think they will get funding to develop their case very soon.
Do you work with international expert organisations? With whom exactly?
We are gradually laying the foundations for our development. If we talk about Spain, for example, there are different associations of companies. The provinces have their own organisations that provide support. If we talk about us, we work with the Spanish Confederation of Business Organisations (CEOE). Today it is the largest business federation in Spain, with more than 40 years of successful activity. CEOE currently represents more than 2 million companies and individual entrepreneurs from all sectors of the economy on a voluntary basis. It brings together 200 territorial and sectoral organisations. CEOE encourages the development of projects that promote entrepreneurship and demonstrate to society the crucial role of business in economic progress. The representatives of the Confederation actively collaborate with the bodies of the Spanish State Administration whose activities affect business regulation issues. Through their extensive network, they are able to reach every business in the country.
We have similar goals. The DestiNations.ua resource is also specifically aimed at bringing people together and building mutual understanding, shaping the image of our country via open communication tools...