“The impression [that one gets from a] first glance is that Ukraine is not that different from the rest of Europe,” says Trond Moe, chairman of risk assessment advisory company Eastern Europe Group. “However, the differences run deeper.” As these differences affect everything from bureaucracy to business practices, accessing the support network available to the business community is crucial when entering the Ukrainian market. 

Even before the 2004 Orange Revolution, an array of organisations had been created to assist incoming businesses to Ukraine, and the 2008 economic crisis spurred the survivors to reach out further. Government agencies, specialist advisories and business associations focused on regional ties now provide services dedicated to navigating what is called local parlance, “the peculiarities of doing business in Ukraine”.

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Assistance at the double

Donetsk in particular is home to both state and local government bodies. The State Agency for National Projects and Investment (Sanpi) has an office in the city, and in April 2012, the Donetsk Oblast government established the Agency of Investment Development of Donetsk Region, or AIDDR, to give a local contact point and focus for both foreign and domestic investors.

As with Sanpi's InvestUkraine, AIDDR was created to help to provide a one-stop shop for handling the bureaucratic aspects of setting up a company in Ukraine. As an advisory centre, however, AIDDR’s local focus is an asset for those reaching into Donetsk Oblast’s many mid-sized industrial and transport hubs.  

Eleven foreign governments also maintain a presence in the city of Donetsk. While some of these are honorary consuls, Austria, the Netherlands and France have trade representations in the city and Germany and the Czech Republic have consulates there.

Advice offered

Then there is the matter of Ukraine’s heady mix of business and politics. Advisory bodies such as Eastern Europe Group prosper due to their insight into Ukraine’s back story and access to current figures of importance. This becomes especially valuable when dealing with local political factions that the outside world views through a geopolitical filter. Global firms such a Deloitte, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young all have offices in Donetsk, and offer a range and level of services familiar to clients from abroad.

National business associations such as the British Business Club of Ukraine (BBCU) have grown in number and importance as Ukraine’s economy has weathered the world’s economic storms. BBCU general manager Gerald Bowers says: “When the BBCU was founded, there were people plugging into a live circuit of deals and optimism. Nowadays, newcomers see opportunities, but they need to overcome resistance, especially on their own part as they encounter hurdles they might not [suffer] back home. Organisations such as the BBCU play an important role in connecting such people with others who have been through the same situations.”

Moreover, the largest business associations, such as the European Business Association and the American Chamber of Commerce, can effectively lobby the Ukrainian government on specific issues that affect their members. Jorge Zukoski, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, says that Donetsk Oblast was one of five regions across Ukraine selected for one of the chamber's regional development projects.

“Basically, we want to support the development of regional competitive advantages. We are also working with AIDDR on a presentation regarding the competitive advantages of the region for chamber members, representatives of the diplomatic and expert community, as well as international organisations,” says Mr Zukoski.