Prime Minister Forto, ladies and gentlemen.
I extend a special warm welcome to the Bosnian diaspora attending this event. Your presence is a clear indication of your strong commitment to developing your homeland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the land you still love.
I am excited to be here at Reconnect 2019, the fourth edition of this event, which is held each year on the eve of the Sarajevo Film Festival. Reconnect is becoming one of the most important events linking diaspora business professionals with investment and business collaboration projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We are happy to partner with Restart in its efforts to identify, mobilize, and support potential diaspora investors.
Over the past two months, I have met with many diaspora members who have already returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina and successfully established their businesses – and their message is clear: Investing in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not just an emotional decision; it also makes good business sense.
Suad Bešlić moved to Germany during the war and began working for a firm that produces customized firetrucks that are built on Mercedes, Volvo, and Man truck platforms.
In 2015, Suad was helping the firm recruit and train workers from Bosnia and Herzegovina for the German plant, when he realized that it made better business sense to recruit, train, and employ workers at a production facility in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Suad established “Sućo [SU-cho] d.o.o” in 2016, and today he employs 30 workers to produce customized fire trucks for EU customers.
Memnuna Čaklovica [Mem-nu-na CHOCK-lo-vitz-a] left at the outset of the war in 1992 and settled in The Netherlands. During her stay, she gained educational and practical knowledge in the use of energy efficiency pads and cushions for industrial purposes. She began working with a Dutch employer and, after 10 years, they decided to establish a joint venture in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In August 2017, Memnuna co-founded Factoring Insulation Technical Solution, or FITS, an industrial insulation fabrics manufacturing firm that exports products to the EU.
I am pleased that USAID is able to facilitate this type of diaspora investment through the Diaspora Invest project.
Through this project, in just the past two years, USAID has:
° Provided assistance to 68 diaspora-led firms, whose total investment has surpassed $7 million and helped create more than 260 new jobs.
° Provided business support services to 60 diaspora investors through the Diaspora Business Center, and supported numerous business networking and matchmaking initiatives, including today’s event.
° Partnered with 10 municipalities in the quest to attract and facilitate diaspora-led investments.
These efforts are paying off. Some diaspora investors are opening their own businesses. Others – like Suad and Memnuna – are opening production facilities. Many diaspora investors are able to connect existing production facilities to foreign markets and incorporate other local companies into their supply chains. These interventions lead to more foreign direct investment, jobs, sales, and exports.
Members of the diaspora are also helping to change the country’s narrative. Working together, the diaspora community can help transform this country into a land of opportunity – a country that people will not want to leave and will happily return to.
I hope that Reconnect 2019 will lead to some good business ideas and strong connections. I invite you to join us on diasporainvest.ba, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms to build a broad and diverse coalition to facilitate investment – and thus positive change – in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sretno! I wish you all great success.