Central and eastern Europe’s potential to become a platform for sustainable, high-tech manufacturing, artificial intelligence and cloud computing, as well as a destination for high-end cultural tourism were examined by current and potential investors at the American Chamber of Commerce’s regional investor forum.
The region represents a significant slice of the EU’s current and future economy. 28% of all EU citizens live in the countries that comprise the region. 15% of the EU’s total GDP is generated there. And, since 2015, 20% of the EU’s GDP growth has come from the businesses operating in those countries. While manufacturing in the EU has risen by 12% and high-tech manufacturing by 25% since 2010, manufacturing in the region has risen by 27% and high-tech manufacturing by 53%.
The contribution of the ICT industry to national GDPs averaged 4.3% in reporting countries in the region, which is roughly comparable to the rest of the EU. Five countries in the region- Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Poland and Romania- reported a sharper rise in the value-added contributed by the ICT sector than Germany.
The investment forum consisted of three panels dedicated to the digital economy, tourism and high-tech manufacturing.
The digital panel addressed the region’s human capabilities and physical infrastructure. John Gasparac, the Managing Partner of PWC Croatia moderated a panel consisting of Ondrej Vlcek, CEO of Avast; Dorin Pena, CEO of Cisco for CIS and Romania; Predrag Lesic, CEO of doMEn; Dalibor Kacmar, National Technology Officer of Microsoft Czech Republic and Slovakia; and Palo Luka, COO of ESET.
‘’The development of next generation digital infrastructures holds a great potential for the growth of CEE countries, and with many of them already piloting the 5G technology, makes our region well positioned to become a relevant player in the IoT era. However, to get to the point of using the 5G technology to its maximum potential, businesses and governments have to work together to remove barriers in the adoption of 5G. While governments focus on the regulation and best alternatives for distributing the user spectrum and enabling 5G service providers, companies are focusing on developing new business models that will rely on the 5G technologies. The transition to the 4.0 industry is enhanced by the increasing rate of technology adoption we’ve experienced in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and going forward it requires interoperability, technical assistance capacity and decision making based on big data”, Dorin Pena, CEO of Cisco for CIS and Romania, Member of the AmCham Romania Board of Directors, emphasized during his presentation.
The tourism panel debated how the region could recover once the pandemic allowed international travel to return. Sinisa Topalovic, Partner and Global Head of Tourism Advisory for Horwath, moderated the panel including Yilmaz Yildilimlar, Area Senior Vice President, Central & Eastern Europe, Russia and Turkey, Radisson Hotel Group; Markus Ekland, Global Managing Partner of FCM Travel Solutions; Kai Dieckmann, General Manager, Regent Hotel, Porto, Montenegro; and Zeljko Kurkurin, President and CEO, Valamar Hotels.
The high tech manufacturing panel ranged from a case study on public/private cooperation on product development to sustainable investments into more efficient production. Michel Perret, General Manager Europe for Carrier Refrigeration guided a panel with Ruza Tomic Fontana, General Manager of Coca-Cola HBC for Croatia, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Hercegovina, and Slovenia; Milan Slapak, President and CEO of GE Czech Republic; and Ivan Mihaylov, President of the Automotive Cluster Bulgaria.
AmChams in the region are working to increase direct investment flows in the region and from the region to the USA. The investor forum will be supplemented by a series of targeted events focused on specific sectors, and particularly product development in high-tech industries.
“We aimed to create an opportunity for an open sharing of information among companies which had already made the decision to place the region at the core of their global growth strategy and those companies still considering it,” Anca Harasim, executive director of AmCham Romania. “We believe the conditions are ripe for a major second wave of investment from companies interested in the research capabilities of universities, the quality of advanced software programming, and the deep cultural and historical attraction of the region for high-end tourists.''