Low-hanging fruits in Bosnia

Malaysia was a member of the Global Entrepreneurs Network (GEN) when it started in 2009 but left a couple of years later due to some issues. The entrepreneur development ministry decided to set up GEN Malaysia and re-joined GEN Global late last year. The Global Entrepreneur Ministerial Summit in Bahrain was the first such event attended by a Malaysian minister for a number of years.

At the summit, Entrepreneur Development Minister Redzuan Yusof took the stage to re-assert our position on the global entrepreneurship map. His speech was well received by the delegates and attracted the attention of many other entrepreneurial nations.

The over 2,000 participants now see Malaysia in a different light. This new government is no longer isolated but very inclusive and entrepreneurial in its stand. Many of them saw fresh opportunities either to invest in or to support Malaysian-based entrepreneurship companies or programmes.

Start-ups in Malaysia could attract cross-border venture capitals, working on close technical and commercial collaboration with other member countries, something which Malaysia has not managed to capitalise on until now.

With Malaysia back in the GEN grouping, these opportunities are now endless and there for the taking. Hopefully, Malaysia can soon play host to this grouping of 170 countries worldwide and showcase many new and successful start-ups in our efforts to diversify our economic activities and employment opportunities through entrepreneurship programmes.

Sarajevo

After our successful stint in Bahrain, we continued our business mission to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia Herzegovina.

Bosnians know Malaysia for a specific historical reason. We were there from 1992-1995 to help them keep their enemies at bay. Malaysians and Bosnians became good friends through the work of Dr Mahathir Mohamad during his first tenure as prime minister. Now that hostilities are over and neighbours have become friends again, there are many opportunities to rebuild this nation of 3.75 million.

Sarajevo, a rustic heritage city, has a lot to offer in terms of tourism including historical and cultural tours.

Our business forum, organised through Bank Bosnia International, covered many sectors ranging from large-scale property development to manufacturing, tourism and even media and IT based start-ups.

Tourism infrastructure and support such as building new four or five-star hotels are obvious low-hanging fruits for potential Malaysian investors. Mostar, a key tourism town offers an attractive location for this sector.

Airlines and airport development are next as Bosnia has yet to set up its own airlines. These could be based in Sarajevo.

Housing and upgrading of heritage buildings would require some effort but the young population is set to increase, so the demand will always be there.

The establishment of local companies or branches of Malaysian companies in small-scale manufacturing using local talents and a highly educated workforce could be a good opportunity, too.

There is also a real opportunity to build a new port for Bosnia at Neum, the only coastal section of Bosnia that has direct access to the Adriatic Sea.

As the country begins to redevelop, a seaport is vital to supporting its economic programmes and growth. Malaysians have solid commercial experience in this field.

The Foreign Investment Council based in Sarajevo was very helpful to the Malaysian delegation and could offer assistance in a variety of data and sectoral reports on opportunities in Bosnia Herzegovina. It also has a long wish list for the participation of foreign investors.

All in all, Bosnia offers excellent opportunities to outward-looking Malaysian companies and entrepreneurs who are willing to venture into new untapped markets, including other Western Balkan countries such as Albania, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.