From 16 to 18 September, OeEB, together with representatives from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Chancellery, Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, OeEB's Supervisory Board, the Chamber of Commerce and the Austrian Development Agency, visited OeEB-financed projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

All members of the Supervisory Board as well as of the committee and advisory board, which approve OeEB's projects with regard to their profitability and developmental impact, were invited. The aim of the trip was to provide insights into OeEB's financing projects and cooperation partners.

Insights with a view

After arriving in Sarajevo, Karlheinz Dobnigg, Ivona Zametica and Srebrenko Fatušić from Raiffeisen Bosnia and Herzegovina gave an insight into the country's economic situation and challenges.

"With Raiffeisen, we have an important partner on our side, with whom we share a common goal: to contribute to sustainable economic development and job creation in the country. We are especially pleased to visit some joint project partners during our stay", says Sabine Gaber, member of OeEB's executive board.

In the evening, OeEB invited all local partners to a joint dinner which offered the opportunity to talk and network while enjoying a marvelous view of Sarajevo.

Water and shoes

On the second day, project visits to Zenica and Bugojno were scheduled:

In Zenica, OeEB has been financing measures for the modernization and expansion of the local water network since 2014 together with the German KfW. The aim is to increase efficiency and reliability of the water supply and increase the drinking water quality in order to sustainably improve living conditions for the local population.

"The Zenica waterworks provide clean drinking water to more than 78,000 people in the region, making it a central service provider to the local population. We are happy to see the progress that has been made since the beginning of our financing," says Sabine Gaber.

Also in Bugojno, it is visible from afar what OeEB's financing helped accomplish: Where recently there was nothing but an empty field, shoes for international brands are now being produced in the newly built Prevent Step production hall - an important contribution to the economic development of the region.

"We are proud to see what Prevent has been able to implement with help of our financing, and we are particularly pleased that 400 new jobs were created in Bugojno," says Sabine Gaber.

Small businesses and large corporations

Back in Sarajevo, visits were made to OeEB clients AS Holding and Prevent Group and long-standing OeEB partner EBRD.

Since the end of 2018, OeEB has granted a loan to AS Holding to finance new production capacities and energy efficiency investments. AS Holding is active in the production and distribution of food and textiles. With over 4,500 employees, the group is one of the largest private employers in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition to presentations about the company's development and tast-testing of new products, a tour of the bakery and mill Klas Sarajevo, founded in 1902, was part of OeEB's visit.

"It's impressive to see how AS Holding has evolved over the past decades, and we're excited to be part of its journey," says Sabine Gaber. "We are particularly happy that we signed the first agreement for technical assistance measures with AS Holding during our visit to further improve and certify international environmental and social standards in its production processes."

As fund manager of the Enterprise Expansion Fund (ENEF), EBRD supports small and medium-sized businesses in the Western Balkans with equity and advisory services. In 2015, OeEB invested EUR 5 million in the fund, acting as trustee for the Austrian Ministry of Finance. Since then, EUR 20 million have been invested in successful projects in the Western Balkans - in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, in the "RS Voluntary Pension" pension fund and the "Krajina Klas" bakery, which also shared their experiences during OeEB's visit.

"ENEF invests in small and medium sized businesses, which have very limited access to finance because of their size. The fund therefore helps close a financing gap and enables growth and job creation, as we could see in the two investees represented today", says Michael Wancata, Member of OeEB's executive board.

Afterwards, Prevent Group and ASA Group gave an insight into the history and development of their group at their headquarters in Sarajevo. "We are proud of our partnership with Prevent, the country's largest private employer, and look forward to implementing further joint projects in the future," says Sabine Gaber.

Many thanks to our partners in Bosnia and Sarajevo, who have welcomed us with great hospitality and enthusiasm and have given us exciting insights into their work!