Who has been to Kosovo? This is often the first question I ask when I am presenting at conferences or forums around Europe. The show of hands is usually very limited, if any. Who has been to the Balkans is my next question. There are usually many more hands – quite often because of trips to Croatia, increasingly Albania and then a debate usually starts about the definition of the Balkans and whether it includes Romania and/or Slovenia. Some may jump up and say they have been to Latvia or Estonia and I have to politely correct them that those countries are in the Baltics, not the Balkans.
And maybe this illustrates a key challenge for Kosovo – people have heard of the country but very few have visited it for either business or pleasure. Many have an opinion about it – often misguided and sometimes negative – and at times Kosovo only has itself to blame for this. The country does need to raise its profile, increase positive awareness and sell itself harder to the foreign business community. There is strong local competition for the scarce foreign resources that are available for investment in the country. Macedonia, Albania and Serbia all have a strong case for an FDI considering their future in the Balkans. And, as a new and developing country Kosovo certainly has some significant challenges ahead.
But after 15 successful years as the biggest foreign investor in Kosovo and the number one bank in the country we at Raiffeisen Bank are very happy with our experience in the country and the impressive returns we have made on our investment. My advice to potential investors is to come and see the country for themselves. Don’t Google it or watch a video on line. Come and see it first hand. Fly into the new modern award winning airport and drive into the capital Pristina on the new two lane highway. Stay at a 5-star hotel in the city centre and shop and eat at one of the biggest and most modern shopping malls in the region.
The next day I can take you to our award-winning clients in technology, construction, mining and agriculture and introduce you to a wide range of intelligent, motivated well educated and young Kosovars who have been the key factor in our success in the country and who have such huge untapped potential.
I can also show you our new head office in the centre of Pristina, which we are in the process of acquiring, a truly visible and significant endorsement of our optimism and commitment to the future of Kosovo.
The views expressed in this opinion editorial are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy.