In April 2014, amid growing unrest in eastern Ukraine and shortly after the annexation of Crimea by Russia, Ciklum, an IT outsourcing company with offices in six Ukrainian cities, including Donetsk, Kharkiv and Odessa, hired 48 new members of staff. “I have no doubts we will be growing in the coming months. Right now we have about 200 positions still open,” said Torben Majgaard, the Danish founder and CEO of Ciklum.
Mr Majgaard is not the only investor betting on the country. According to fDi Markets, a crossborder investment monitor, the first quarter of 2014 saw 24 greenfield FDI projects in the country, a similar number as recorded in the same period of 2013 and twice as many projects as in the first quarter of 2012. Among the companies that have invested in Ukraine in 2014 are Inditex, a Spanish clothing retailer, and JKX Oil & Gas, a UK commodities exploration company.
FDI levels have not contracted sharply, partly because investors responded well to the February departure of Viktor Yanukovych, the country’s president, and to the forming of an interim government headed by Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
“When Mr Yanukovych started his second term [in 2012] it quickly became clear that he put the interests of his family first, and used foreign investment wins as part of his PR efforts, while the interim government [has been] quite effective in addressing issues,” said Roman Kyzyk, a senior adviser at Myrmidon Group, a New York-based consultancy specialising in Ukraine. “While it might appear to some that Ukraine is in a state of civil war, this is not true.”
Aleksander Kuksin, project manager of accountancy firm Kreston GCG, said: “It is a weird conflict. There are no mass strikes or closing businesses... [Donetsk] region actually lives a normal life, except for the sounds of shooting that you can hear in some cities.”
Among the sectors that have managed to attract investor attention in 2014 are agriculture and IT, said Mr Kyzyk. Meanwhile, Mr Majgaard is also bullish about Ukraine’s IT capacity. He recently launched Brain Basket Foundation, an initiative aiming at helping the country to train 100,000 software developers
by 2020. “This is the way forward for this country. And when it comes to IT, no government can spoil Ukraine’s potential,” he said.