Q: What are your top immediate priorities as head of the Development Foundation of Armenia [DFA]? Do you plan to launch any new investment promotion initiatives?
A: In 2017, we will make a major push to inform the global investor community about the advantages Armenia has to offer as a gateway to the regional markets of the Eurasian Economic Union [EEU], Iran and the Middle East, and present the various investment opportunities we see in Armenia, particularly in the agri-food, IT, energy, tourism and pharma sectors.
We intend to market the DFA’s ‘one-stop shop’ investor support services, because we see first-hand how useful they are to the potential investor interested in Armenia. We will also continue with our export promotion activities by helping Armenian exporters participate in international trade fairs and organising our landmark export promotion event, the Made in Armenia trade show.
In 2017, we will be organising a major investment forum in the Gulf region, and will undertake targeted investor outreach missions to France, Italy, Lebanon, Canada and the US.
Q: Armenia has a large diaspora. How can this be leveraged to help increase Armenian trade and investment?
A: Armenia’s 8 million-strong diaspora, well integrated into the economies of their host nations, can indeed act as a catalyst for major trade and investment flows into the country. Like most FDI, diasporan businesspeople bring in not just financial resources, but also invaluable technical know-how, connections with global networks and direct market access.
In 2017, we will undertake key outreach missions to various diasporan communities to further engage them into making investments in Armenia and to inform them of the globally competitive products Armenian firms have to offer. The DFA will also organise, towards the latter part of 2017, a key forum with diasporan businesspeople involved in the garment industry to discuss the prospects of the sector’s development in Armenia and optimal ways of co-operation to establish a globally competitive textile industry and attract FDI into the sector.
Q: What are the challenges in marketing such a small country as an investment destination and how can the limitation of having a small domestic market be overcome, or even turned into an advantage?
A: Armenia’s geographic position and its integrated trade links with many regional economic blocs make it an attractive gateway to regional markets: full membership of the EEU, a common border with Iran and a GSP+ [Generalised Scheme of Preferences-plus] trade regime with the EU allow companies located in Armenia to have easy access to these markets.
A small domestic market has meant that Armenia has always championed an open economy with one of the most liberal business environments in the region. And, partly due to a relatively small economy, the Armenian government accords a high level of attention and support to investors of all sizes, with many medium-sized businesses receiving a level of attention they would otherwise not see in larger countries.
Recently, we have been seeing many foreign companies setting up shop in Armenia to export to regional markets such as the EEU and Iran, with many of them citing the country’s small size and the ensuing ease of doing business as an advantage: an Italian company making frozen pizzas and exporting them to Russia and Iran, or an Egyptian pharma company planning to make generic drugs in Armenia to export to the EEU. As another example, the DFA recently assisted a German manufacturer of medical disinfectant dispensers to establish operations in Armenia, with the aim of manufacturing their products here for export to the EEU and Iran.
Q: Armenia has some untapped potential as a tourism destination. Does this fit into your overall economic development and FDI attraction strategy, and if so, how?
A: With its rich historical, cultural and religious heritage, its enchanting natural landscapes, hospitable people and delicious brandy and wine, Armenia does indeed have a tremendous potential as a tourism destination. As such, the government has identified tourism as a key driver of its economic development plan, and has partnered with international financial institutions in supporting infrastructure investments into particular tourism destinations. Naturally, we see investment opportunities in the sector, and in our communications with international investors we make sure to pinpoint specific opportunities in the sector, with a focus on investments in hospitality and resort development.