There is a broad consensus in today’s Ukraine that the country’s ability to attract international investment will play a decisive role in determining the ultimate outcome of the Euromaidan Revolution. Only international investment can provide the economic buoyancy required to cement the country’s European pivot and defeat Russian hybrid aggression. Attracting international investment necessarily means improving the business climate and combating corruption.
It also means overcoming decades of communications failures and promoting Ukrainian investment opportunities to global audiences with limited knowledge of what the country has to offer. Ukraine’s newly established investment promotion office, Ukraine Invest, seeks to improve international investor awareness and attract much-needed FDI to one of Europe’s least developed and largest markets.
Ukraine Invest is headed by Daniel Bilak, a Canadian with decades of Ukraine experience who formerly advised the Ukrainian government on reform issues and joined this new investment initiative from his most recent role as Managing Partner at CMS Cameron McKenna in Kyiv. Business Ukraine magazine invited Mr. Bilak to introduce Ukraine Invest to readers and outline the priorities for the year ahead.
Introducing Ukraine Invest
As Director of Ukraine Invest, I will oversee a team consisting of three Deputy Directors – Petro Mastiaszek, Ulyana Khromyak and Deborah Fairlamb – and approximately 10 other team members who all come with extensive experience in working with investors, client service and marketing. We are committed to being transparent in our work and adhering to the principles of integrity, innovation, passion and professionalism. Ukraine Invest was established on 19 October 2016 as an advisory body to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. Initiated by the Office of Prime Minister Groysman, and coordinated by Oksana Markarova, Government Investment Commissioner and First Deputy Minister of Finance, Ukraine Invest is funded and supported by the Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF) which contributed USD 750,000 to launch and support our activities. This funding will enable us to work directly with investors, provide the resources to develop a strong communication platform to raise awareness about Ukraine’s investment opportunities, and allow for the employment of the best investment experts with international experience.
Independent funding is important for a number of reasons. It provides transparency, commitment to mission, long-term focus, and ongoing support, since this is not a profit-generating office. It will also provide some autonomy and should reduce the possibility of bureaucratic interference. In practical terms, it permits Ukraine Invest to engage experts who are familiar with the needs and expectations of international private investors and companies, and to employ the tactics that can best reach them.
Promoting Brand Ukraine
Ukraine Invest will focus on three areas: supporting existing and new investors; increasing the ease of doing business by improving communication between the authorities, business, and international organizations; and promoting Ukraine’s brand as a country where attractive opportunities exist for investors. Our mission is to elevate Ukraine in the global economy through investment and economic growth. Our vision is to unlock USD one billion in new Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Ukraine by 31 December 2017 through a number of measures including providing relevant, concise and actionable information that matters to foreign investors considering Ukraine. We will provide investor services to existing and new investors in Ukraine, including facilitating contacts with government authorities while identifying opportunities and organizing meetings with potential local partners. We will also focus on enhancing the ease of doing business in Ukraine by focusing on outreach, communication and collaboration with key stakeholders such as business associations, embassies, ministers and key government agencies to help improve the investment environment, as well as targeting specific systemic impediments to business operations. The regions of Ukraine are of major importance for long term and sustainable growth in Ukraine. Our work will eventually also be rolled out on the regional level.
It is important to stress that Ukraine Invest is not a transaction office – we can provide a choice of referrals of what we see as best-in-class or the most appropriate opportunities for incoming investors. We also do not complete with local investment banks or legal and consulting firms – instead, we will provide country and sector level information for a public audience.
Ukraine Invest is realistic in scope. We cannot eliminate all the complexities of investing in Ukraine. What we can do is help investors understand the processes, answer questions, and if they do have issues, work on their behalf to help facilitate issue resolution. We will provide referrals, make introductions, source investment opportunities, and generally help potential investors as an advocate on their behalf. We have already started to deal with certain problematic investor cases, as well as to curate dozens of stories of foreign investors operating successfully and profitably for years in Ukraine. We are also in touch with many new interested investors who are exploring opportunities for investment across the country.
About the author: Daniel Bilak is the Director of the Investment Promotion Office of Ukraine