Bosnia & Herzogovina – A Country Off The Usual Business Radar #19

Bosnia & Herzogovina – A Country Off The Usual Business Radar with Zlatan Vujanović #19

What do you know about Bosnia and Herzogivina? Chances are, not very much. And certainly there don’t seem to be many business leaders talking about international expansion who’ve got it on their radar. Maybe that’s a significant oversight.

Oliver is often telling people that they shouldn’t just consider the “usual suspects” but look more widely, as there can be real advantages in expanding in countries that the competition have also not yet reached.

Recently he was able to update his own knowledge about the country and was honoured to meet with Zlatan Vujanovic, the Minister of Trade for Bosnia-Herzogovina.


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OLIVER: This afternoon I’m with Zlatan Vujanović, who is the Minister of Trade for Bosnia-Herzegovina. It’s very nice to meet you.

ZLATAN: I’m glad to have the opportunity to talk to you. It’s my pleasure.

OLIVER: Great. So please tell me and our listeners something about why Bosnia Herzegovina is a great destination for business investment.

ZLATAN: It’s nice to have opportunity to share some highlights and bullets about the greatest points of Bosnia-Herzegovina being attractive for the foreign investors. First, most people know we used to be part of the old Yugoslavia, a really well known and developed country under one of the most famous people in the history of mankind, President Tito – of your generation.

OLIVER: I’m afraid so, yes.

ZLATAN: So yes we’ve got the tradition and we are part of Europe. Unfortunately some bad things happened that left us as it is. We are now in a situation that we are now a smaller, independent country. We are a member of European family, not EU but a part of Europe, being located in Europe, and having the great advantage of the geostrategic position. We are in Europe, we are close to all the capitals and main points, and everything is much cheaper than in most of the EU and UK, which means, whatever you think, to have pleasure, to have a comfortable life, the good quality of living, to actually enjoy whatever you would like to enjoy, you can do at least three to five times cheaper than in the rest of the main capitals of the country of the EU or the UK. What that means, is if you can do that, you can also run a business, because operational costs are much cheaper than in the UK and the rest of Europe and we are having, because of tradition, really good education, really smart and good skilful people. We’ve gained medals in the Olympic Games, in physics, mathematics, informatics, it means brains that can be used for the business, for the creators of ideas to make money. We are having everything, all the resources for somebody skilful to create it and turn it into money, we are having ideas for the business. That’s why Bosnia is really compatible, good resources, cheap operational costs, good tax laws, administrative framework for the business. VAT is only 17%. The individual salary general tax is 10%.

OLIVER: Very attractive. What types of businesses are going to benefit most then, services businesses?

ZLATAN: Now the potentials are in energy, creating some sound capital investments for energy, that means hydro, thermal or other renewable energy, windmills and solar. That is one option. The other option is all these various kinds of trades. There is now expansion of trade, so that means even retail or wholesale, but we are most interested in somebody who can bring sound investment because we are having cheap mineral and raw material resources, to bring good quality business done in our country to produce final products.


ZLATAN: Added value to be created, something to be left for our country. Now we are facing this risk of headhunters from European countries grabbing our smart people, to get graduates to go away. This is what we don’t like. That’s why we would like people to come and make the business because the costs are cheap, to have everything located over there, running the business in Bosnia. Covering the markets of the rest of Europe and the UK is a good option because connections are good. We are close to the Adriatic coast, that means sea ports and the road communications are good. We have several good airports. That means not enormous, huge businesses, but we would like somebody to come and invest to cover European markets from Bosnia, rather than from Asia.

OLIVER: Absolutely. So, it’s not part of the European Union. Is there a initiative to become part of it?

ZLATAN: Yes, of course, we are running the process of becoming a full member. We are candidate for the membership.

OLIVER: Okay, so you have a timescale in mind?

ZLATAN: The time schedule should be 2025, it is still six/seven years away, but anyway we are having all these good agreements with members of Europe and the members of SEFTA and EFTA, we are having some kind of preferable quantities.

OLIVER: Do you benefit from the same sort of easy movement of goods?

ZLATAN: Yes, everything is easy, actually being a member of these kinds of units, SEFTA and EFTA, we are now to become member of the World Trade Organisation, WTO. That means you are actually respecting all these free trade agreements, non customs barriers, that means to let the movement of the goods and manpower easily, smoothly. That means actually, even though wanting to attract somebody, we need to offer some backgrounds. The legal background is we are following European standards. We want you to come over here, that means as a member of Europe, good businesses. We offer you what the standards are, we are looking forward, it’s the 21st Century, we are looking for whatever, by letters all these governments of people, leaders are following. All these initiation from the other leaders. We want to be a member of the EU. Negotiation for that is good, and we are already expecting and adopting standards of European culture and lifestyle.

OLIVER: It sounds really interesting. Here with the Foreign Investment Promotion Agency, what services can the IPA offer to businesses that could be interested?

ZLATAN: Actually, they will offer the most modern standards and everything, all various kinds of communication. The ID of IP technology, IC standards, all that kind of information. We are now actually entering the 4G network for telecom. Telecom for us is important for any kind of business.

OLIVER: Absolutely.

ZLATAN: With more creation of road communication, we are now in a situation to complete the corridor 5C. It’s a corridor highway connecting to central Europe and the Adriatic coast. That means going from Hungary through Croatia, then Bosnia and back down to Croatia and the port of Ploče, making connections for both business and tourism. Ploče is one of the most important ports for us. It’s just south from Bosnia, very close to our southern border line and, as you know, Croatia is actually surrounding Bosnia. The Adriatic coast ports are located in Croatia. But, as old members of the former state of Yugoslavia, we have an extremely good relationship.

OLIVER: You have opened up my own appetite for going back and looking again with new eyes because there’s clearly a great opportunity.

ZLATAN: We are still offering opportunities for business, even agriculture for organic food. We are not using so many chemicals and pesticides. We are still offering an opportunity for organic food production. It costs a lot, but people want to buy it.

OLIVER: Absolutely.

ZLATAN: There is also tourism. Now that loads of people are coming from Arabic countries to Bosnia because lifestyle is much cheaper for them and also has a good tradition that has a high population of Muslims.

OLIVER: I am always telling Companies that want to expand abroad that they need to actually pick a destination that they would like to keep going back to all the time because it means a lot.

ZLATAN: There is an old tradition connecting with the UK because all of Yugoslavia has a really good relationship with England and that is what we would like to to carry on with. All businesses are always welcome to come and look. This is what is this combination, this agency for promotion for new foreign investors, the Council of the Government Federation, that I am a member of. We are interested in the government to create the administrative and legal framework to fit to the maximum to business, to support that ambition and to be competent.

OLIVER: Well I’m certain the majority of British businesses haven’t even thought about Bosnia as yet. So, I really hope that

ZLATAN: We really want to get that attention.

OLIVER: I really hope people who listen to this will feel encouraged to go and have a look and see the opportunities for themselves because I think it’s really essential to actually go and see with your own eyes.

ZLATAN: We really want people to come and we will take them wherever they want. They can get the right answers on the very spot from the people in charge for everything, that is the best.

OLIVER: Zlatan, thank you very much for talking to me.

ZLATAN: It was my pleasure. You’re always welcome.


Photo by Natalya Letunova

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