The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (Miga) and the Austrian government have signed an agreement to jointly establish a new facility to help western Balkan countries reach out to European investors. The facility, to be based in Vienna, is set to launch in early 2004.

The facility will seek to strengthen the capability of the beneficiary countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, FYR Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro – to attract inward investment from across Western Europe. The goal is to increase investors’ awareness of the region’s investment potential, encourage investors to undertake site visits to explore possible investments, and ultimately to support actual investments in the region.

“The countries of southeastern Europe are implementing far-reaching reforms to improve their investment climates and reduce the administrative and regulatory barriers that can put off investors,” says Tessie San Martin, head of investment marketing services for Miga. “These improvements have opened up many areas of promise for investment in the region. The challenge we want to address, in collaboration with the Austrian government, is to make sure these improvements are communicated well to investors, and that investors receive the support they need to make well-founded investment decisions and implement them successfully.”

The initiative will start out as a two and a half-year pilot program, supported by an initial contribution of US$900,000 made available by the Austrian government under a grant agreement to Miga. Miga will co-finance the initiative with a contribution of about US$200,000. It is expected that over time, additional donors will join the initiative and that the pilot programme will be expanded to cover additional countries and a wider range of sectors and industries.

Activities planned under the project include preparatory country bench-marking and sector-profiling work, focused on providing the detailed data that investors need to make investment decisions. This will be followed by a wide range of targeted investment generation and facilitation activities, focused on a small number of priority sectors of common interest to the participating countries. To support the investment outreach and facilitation effort, Miga, through the facility, will also deliver a series of skills training and other capacity development activities.

The project will work hand-in-hand with leading investment intermediaries in the region – including investment promotion agencies, chambers of commerce, and business associations – on the design and execution of outreach activities. “Miga has piloted this type of demand-driven marketing programme in other regions around the world, with very good results so far,” says San Martin.

The Vienna facility will operate under Miga’s supervision, with guidance from a steering committee comprised of representatives from Miga, the Austrian government, and participating countries. It is the first project that will be executed under Miga’s new “Invest-in-Development Facility”.