Ukraine: Europe’s next frontier economy

Finding current and reliable news about Ukraine’s economy, investment and business in its English-language media can be a challenge. Many articles published today focus on the war in Eastern Ukraine, political infighting and other stories guaranteed to make investors think twice about launching any financial ventures in the country.

The Kyiv Post is probably the best-known English-language news publication in Ukraine.  But, its news coverage does not focus on the economy or investment. There are other sources like Business Ukraine Magazine, which does offer some economic and financial insight, but it comes out 10 times a month.

In May, James Brooke, a veteran foreign correspondent, started a weekday morning e-newsletter covering economy, investment and business: Ukraine Business News. Mr Brooke is a Yale-educated journalist with four decades years of experience covering countries around the globe. His background includes 24 years with the New York Times, and in Moscow, regional bureau chief for Bloomberg and then Voice of America. He moved to Kyiv in December 2015.

Andrew Pryma, who grew up in Zhytomyr, and received his MBA in the US where he currently lives, is a business partner in UBN.

In an interview, Mr Brooke talked about his confidence in the Ukrainian economy and the positive changes that are happening. “The game changer is the new visa free tourism which is bringing millions of Ukrainians to Europe. You’re exposing a massive amount of (Ukrainian) population to direct living and working and studying in the EU,” he said.

“The second game changer was the arrival on September 3 of Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline. By the end of the year, they will have direct links between Ukraine and 17 EU cities. You’re going to have Europeans on the ground right where I live (in Kyiv).  Ukraine is by and large a normal country. This will be huge in changing attitudes of Ukrainians towards Europe and Europeans towards Ukraine.”

James Brooke explains why some investments in Ukraine are not publicised:

“If European companies are putting 600 million US dollars in a corn processing plant in rural Vinnytsia, they don’t care about publicity. They are trying to get the plant up and running. There are a lot of investments like that – a 300 million US dollar American-funded wind turbine project in Odessa,” he adds. “Value-added is happening. It’s not sexy and it’s hard to find these stories. Once again, investors don’t want publicity. They just want to get their factory up and running and make money, and not run into pushback from people wanting to create problems.”

Mr. Brooke points out that the tech sector and IT are thriving.

“You’re going to see more and more integration with the wider world. In the IT sector around the world, Ukraine is recognised as a great place to go. The challenge for Ukraine is to move beyond outsourcing. The challenge is to move into the creative, innovative areas and to not just do the kind of piecework handed off.”

The UBN morning newsletter is becoming a go-to source for economic, investment and business news about Ukraine.

“We are in the process of building the brand and getting the name and word out,” says Mr. Brooke. “In 10 weeks, we have 1,000 readers. This speaks to a hunger for solid Bloomberg style ‘just the facts’ information about business deals and economic trends.  Smart people are putting their money in Ukraine.”

Subscription to the UBN morning newsletter is free and can be done here.

James Brooke is very upbeat about Ukraine’s economic and investment prospects.

He calls Ukraine: “Europe’s next frontier economy”.