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On the 16th of November, the 8th Kyiv Invest Forum (KIF) edition took place in the city hall of Brussels. It is the second time Brussels has become the host city with Promote Ukraine (PU) as a partner. The volunteers from Promote Ukraine helped with the organisation process, including informing about the KIF media, promoting the event on PU’s social media, and assisting on-site during the Forum.

For the second time, the Kyiv Invest Forum was held in Brussels by Philippe Close, Mayor of the city of Brussels. Vitaliy Klitschko, Mayor of Kyiv, joined in person this time (last year he was present online only). In 2023, the annual meeting under the headline “Brussels Platform: Sustainable Revival of Greater Kyiv” gathered representatives of governments, municipal administrations, private businesses, and civil societies. In this article, Promote Ukraine offers an overview of the main discussions raised during the forum. 

Ukraine is Europe

Considering the recently published recommendation of the EU Commission to open negotiations with Ukraine to grant candidate status, it’s no wonder the sentence “Ukraine is Europe” was pronounced many times during the Forum. After the start of the full-scale Russian invasion, the EU has shown tremendous support by providing around €40.5 billion to Ukraine. The EU is interested in supporting our state because, as Ans Persoons, the State Secretary of the Brussels Capital Region said, “Welcoming Ukraine to the EU will benefit all of us.” 

Due to destruction from the war, Ukraine has to rebuild its infrastructure. This is an opportunity to remodel old systems by using technological innovations for a more sustainable future. In this regard, the EU can assist in the modernisation of Ukraine by sharing technologies. Philippe Close perceives Ukraine as an “opportunity to speak about tech EU projects that are pioneering in the world.”

However, due to the ongoing war, corruption, and vague laws, many European investors stay away from doing business in Ukraine. The KIF panels focused on solving current issues and finding common ground to engage investors in Ukraine.

Vitaliy Klitschko, Mayor of Kyiv, and Philippe Close, Mayor of the City of Brussels 

What Ukraine has to offer to investors

“I am a bodyguard of your investments,” said Vitaliy Klitschko, causing laughter in the hall.

He drew attention to the fact that Ukraine is a technological hub. He shared that during official visits, international partners often are astonished by the Kyiv Smart City system as one of the examples of the technologies implemented in urbanisation planning. 

During the conference, several participants, including Markus Heilig, Hamburg’s Director for International Affairs, openly expressed their interest in the cooperation with Kyiv IT hub.

Yevgeniya Piddubna, Corporate Affairs Director and Member of the Board of Directors, Farmak JSC, insisted that “Kyiv is the huge magnet for investments,” explaining that entrepreneurs initially look at people who have invested before, the revenues, only after they check the regulations and laws. Yevgeniya gave her example of Kyiv being the city of successful business cases. Within the first three weeks of the war, Farmak lost their big storages in Kyiv oblast and couldn`t work. Thanks to the resilience and heroism of people, the company is opening a new production line now. 

Panel #3: Investments in Sustainable Transformation. From the left to the right: Nina Levchuk, Co-founder of Impact Force; Anthony Naralingom, Head of the unit ‘Economic transition & Inclusive Entrepreneurship’ of hub.brusssels; Yevgeniya Piddubna, Corporate Affairs Director, Member of the Board of Directors, Farmak JSC, Head of Healthcare Committee at the Union of Ukrainian Entrepreneurs

What investors need from Ukraine

All speakers were almost unanimous regarding the drawbacks and risks of investing in Ukraine. No matter how profitable it may be to have a business, there are plenty of obstacles and risks. Nabil Jijakli, Group Deputy CEO of CREDENDO Export Credit Agency, advised improving the infrastructure, mobility, and telecommunication as the first simple steps. Indeed, bad roads complicate delivery, which may preclude someone from investing. Susan Goeransson, Director and head of Infrastructure Europe of The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said that Kyiv has proven to be a reliable partner. However, there is a need for better transparency of project layout supported by anticorruption laws and wise management of money. The approach to coping with existing issues should be systematic, supported by public and private sectors, and approved by civil societies. Yet, the EU is ready to help Ukraine in its journey. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, highlighted that reforms required by the EU are to make “Ukraine stronger and more attractive to investors.” (read her full speech here). 

Video message from Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

City-to-city cooperation as a first step 

The EU principle of subsidiarity implies a certain level of independence at different power levels, including municipal governance. At this point, city-to-city cooperation becomes essential for the development of Kyiv and European integration. An explicit illustration is direct help from the civil society of Belgium (BEforUA) and the Brussels administration that bought ambulances for Kyiv. Mayors from different cities expressed their support and readiness to work together. For example, Linda Ozola, Deputy Mayor of Riga, understands the importance of helping with the transition from post-Soviet to modern European cities. At the time, Nordic cities helped Riga, and nowadays the delegation from Nizhin spent several weeks observing the work at the Riga municipality to “learn at the place.” Jasmin Ademović, Chairman of the Sarajevo City Council, is ready to share with Kyiv the experience of the post-war city by sending an expert team to consult on the reconstruction. Every mayor thinks about the comfortable conditions for living in the city, such as transport, infrastructure, sewage systems, etc. Municipal administrations deal more with routine and practical tasks than rhetorical discussions. That is why Anuela Ristani, Deputy Mayor of Tirana, said, “Working together on some simple things we [mayors] do daily is one of the simplest things because what we do is very tangible.”

Panel #1 City-to-City Cooperation. From the left to the right: Vitaliy Klitschko, Mayor of Kyiv; Daniel Sazonov, Deputy Mayor of Helsinki; Linda Ozola, Deputy Mayor of Riga

Civil Society 

Marda Barandiy, founding chair of NGO Promote Ukraine, delivered a speech during the discussion session on the macroeconomic forecast for Ukraine. She highlighted the roles of the Ukrainian civil society that can help Ukraine to thrive economically.

Lots of speakers mentioned corruption as one of the biggest obstacles that preclude investment flowing in Ukraine. Marta believes that civil society can cope with bribery because the first role of civil society is to guard democracy and European values. In 2013, it was civil society that supported the Revolution of Dignity and insisted on the European future for Ukraine.

From the macroeconomic perspective, the Ukrainian government will have to attract refugees to return home in order to achieve economic prosperity. And it is Ukrainian NGOs abroad that will help to attract people back to their homes in Ukraine. ” We know the refugees’ professions, hobbies, and motivations, and we can help to form the programs to bring Ukrainians back,” said Marta Barandiy.  

PU team with Philippe Close, Mayor of the City of Brussels

Overall, the Kyiv Investment Forum 2023 was a glimpse of hope for a better future. As summarised by Philippe Close, “It differs a lot from last year’s session. The previous KIF was about the war and ways to help refugees. Now we also spoke about the future.”

To read more about Kyiv Invest Forum 2023 or learn about the agenda, please, follow the link

Text: Mariana Yukhno

Photos: PRYZM 

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