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In the most recent edition of the roadshow to the DACH countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), the Innovation and Training Park Prizren (ITP) and the NGO Germin presented the vision and potential of the ITP Prizren to an interested audience in Frankfurt. The event welcomed more than 25 diaspora entrepreneurs from the German State of Hesse in Frankfurt as well as important stakeholders such as the Minister of Industry, Entrepreneurship and Trade of the Republic of Kosovo, head of the Albanian-German Businesses Union (UB), and Kosovo’s General Consulate in Frankfurt. About 25 thousand Kosovans live in the German State of Hesse, and an important share of them own prosperous businesses. ITP Prizren is trying to tap these businesses’ potential by offering them a stable environment to bring knowledge, capital, and access to advanced markets to their home country of Kosovo.
In addition to being recognized as the source of significant resource flows to Kosovo through remittances, Kosovo Diaspora should also be seen as significant socio-economic investors in Kosovo’s development. Usually, diaspora investors are more likely to invest in their home country than non-diaspora investors. They have a better understanding of the governance and in-country business and may therefore have a differing understanding of risk from other investors. In addition, diaspora investments are channeled into underdeveloped sectors of the economy, which do not impact the crowding out of domestic resources. Lastly, it is argued that diaspora investors are not only interested in financial returns but also have non-financial motives, which carry positive effects, especially in regard to employment and technology spillovers.
Nevertheless, the Kosovan diaspora faces a range of barriers to investment such as fear of bureaucracy, lack of lasting partners in the country of origin. Due to such factors, diaspora investment patterns often appear to be conservative. ITP Prizren is a great model for attracting diaspora investment in Kosovo since it has been created to provide special regulations and conditions not offered elsewhere throughout the country. The park aims to create ease accessibility of land for investments, presents new research, technologies and skills development, and more job opportunities.
As the newly appointed Managing Director of ITP Prizren, Mr Hans-Jürgen Cassens, pointed out in Frankfurt, the strategically located park aims to support Kosovo’s development goals, and the staff of ITP Prizren is working hard in that direction. The Minister of Industry, Entrepreneurship and Trade of the Republic of Kosovo, Mrs Rozeta Hajdari, also stressed that the diaspora is one of the main contributors to Kosovo’s economic growth. The minister also encouraged all entrepreneurs at the event to consider investment opportunities in Kosovo, especially on ITP Prizren, which offers a stable investment environment for businesses, start-ups, training, and innovation.
During this meeting, Mr Nazmi Viqa, head of the Albanian-German Businesses Union (UB), said that the union would continue to support the ITP Prizren among the diaspora and German investors because all these investors look for such great opportunities with excellent German-build infrastructure. In addition, Consul Gezim Gashi from Kosovo’s Consulate General in Frankfurt mentioned that they would continuously promote investment opportunities in Kosovo, which undoubtedly includes ITP.
ITP Prizren advisor, Muhamed Rexhepi, presented a detailed presentation about the park and its mission. After the presentation, a Q&A session helped diaspora stakeholders to understand the park better. The following cocktail reception offered a great opportunity for networking and exchanging contacts with ITP representatives and learn more about the park’s investment possibilities.
The interest in the ITP’s potential shown during the two events indicated a great signal for the future! Therefore, more editions of the roadshow will take the ITP management and Germin to successful diaspora entrepreneurs in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
For more information on the ITP, please visit www.itp-prizren.com.
Business Parks are moving away from the traditional setting towards a more entrepreneurial one, where businesses located on the site interact, support, and trade with each other. This is precisely what the Innovation and Training Park (ITP) Prizren offers — synergy between the private sector, vocational education and training institutions, and innovation activities. ITP Prizren strives to be a focal point in the Balkan region for innovation, business as well as skills development, and a source of innovative and successful ideas. The park is currently developing into a changing and boosting element for ICT, agro-food and creative industries by creating and managing a favourable business environment.
In the last two years, Kosovo’s economy was under continued pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic, but this is not the only obstacle that needs to be addressed. Having a low unemployment rate and inactive population, low informal jobs, particularly for women and youth, infrastructure improvements, higher human capital investment, and a better regulatory environment for businesses are some of the economic goals for Kosovo.Because development is often confined to the likes of infrastructure and human resources, ITP Prizren is an ideal catalyst for Kosovo’s economic development with a modern infrastructure, vocational and on-the-job training that foster and attract businesses of all scales and sizes. These and other services offered at ITP Prizren improve the work-life balance of people working in the park, increasing the site’s attractiveness and increasing the potential for formal collaboration between academia and industry.
In Kosovo, small businesses and start-ups are struggling to ensure that the products and/or services they offer meet industry specific needs and the global standards. Hence, the role of ITP Prizren- the German managed park becomes increasingly important for businesses, start-ups and training providers looking for an increase in productivity through the introduction of efficient logistics and supply chain solutions.
Furthermore, Kosovo’s current flow of FDIs is insufficient to achieve the desired economic growth. Most of the investments coming from the diaspora are oriented towards financial services, construction and real estate, and very few towards production sectors. The latest research shows that ICT, food, and energy sectors are growing and likely to attract new FDI. Therefore, ITP Prizren intends to attract diaspora investments in those areas, which in return will increase employment and productivity and create a more stable connection to global value chains.
A favourable business climate is fundamental to Kosovo’s economic prosperity; however, women face multiple difficulties opening and developing their businesses. Even though women represent almost half the population, they own only 13 percent of all businesses, mostly micro or small, in Kosovo. To meet women’s potential to create jobs through their business and boost economic growth, women entrepreneurs in Kosovo need to support underlying policy and regulatory constraints related to women’s share in industrial land, skills, and access to credit.
ITP Prizren is also creating a women-friendly business ecosystem through a “Women Empowerment through Digital Transformation” project, supporting women to reinvent their business models from traditional to digital. The project will enhance women’s ability to succeed in business: through general and very specific digital initiatives, training programmes and networking opportunities for business continuity. In total, 125 women were part of a five-day training session on topics with a digital angle, selected according to the private sector’s needs.
Businesses at the ITP have the unique opportunity to become positive drivers of the community, the economy, and the environment. In terms of community, the innovation and training park produces more employment opportunities, business retention and reduces development costs. In addition, it can serve as an economic stimulus for future investment in retail and housing. The environment refers to environmental, energy, and waste design and infrastructure principles that aim to preserve more for ecological circumstances. Lastly, in terms of the economy, ITP has put together services that help achieve the economic goals of Kosovo by creating a more sustainable, productive, and fast-growing business climate.
The vision of ITP Prizren is in line with the objectives set by the national development strategy plan of Kosovo: To foster employment, create better infrastructure, a safer environment for businesses, and promote foreign direct investment (FDI) through furthermore engaging the diaspora. The park is designed to promote innovation to further knowledge and boost labour productivity. ITP offers a number of shared resources, such as incubators, coworking spaces, digital centre programs, uninterruptible power supply, management offices, among others. All these factors could be an advantage to promote export activity and create a certain niche and competitive standpoint for the diaspora community and other foreign investors.
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Diaspora members, unlike foreign tourists, visit the homeland mainly driven by motives such as emotional or family ties, preservation of heritage and language, family reunification, re-connection with their roots, culture, and knowledge of the local context, etc. A desire to relive or repeat past experiences associated with moments of joy, pleasure, nostalgia, as well as the re-construction of events of dark or painful past greatly shape the experiences at the homeland.
Numerous and frequent visits of the Albanian diaspora to the homeland, especially during holiday seasons, have taken on the dimension of what is called “diaspora tourism”. These visits have a potential to influence tourism development and its related sectors in the homeland. In order to capitalize on diaspora tourism, it is necessary to take into account some factors from the homeland perspective:
- Understanding the motives of diaspora visits. First of all, it is very important to understand the motives that push diaspora members to visit the homeland so often. This is because their experience and impressions are shaped by the motives of the visits. Consequently, entities that provide services or products should keep in mind that if someone has come with the main purpose of reminiscing with relatives and homeland, he / she has less time to spend on other activities. Therefore, touristic offers must be tailored to demand – specific and clearly defined in time and space.
- Local and authentic oriented tourism. Diaspora tourism by nature creates or already has strong links with the local economy, to which the diaspora contributes greatly. Diaspora tourists are mainly looking for local and authentic experiences and products. Therefore, for them the quality is more important than the quantity of things. This is very important for the local economy, as the cultivation and promotion of products has a multifaceted effect in many other sectors such as: cultural and historical heritage, handicrafts, agriculture, livestock, etc. Moreover, it should be noted that the local economy can build a comparative advantage in tourism by cultivating and offering local products and authentic experiences rather than imported ones.
- Direct support to the local economy. Diaspora tourism is characterized by not very exclusive or expensive trips. Visiting local and often unknown shops, eating in traditional local restaurants with local owners, sleeping in small, less popular places, etc, is what makes in general diaspora tourism in the homeland. According to global data, the diaspora tourist spends on average less than a regular foreign tourist. Not because of financial impossibility but because of knowledge and desire for local experiences. Diaspora tourists also buy or order directly to local suppliers rather than through intermediary operators, thus directly supporting small local economic operators.
- Putting in the map “unknown” places. By visiting places that ordinary tourists do not visit as much as e.g. rural destinations on the occasion of family visits, local cultural or sports events, natural attractions with poor transport infrastructure, diaspora tourists put new places/locations on the tourist maps of the homeland countries. This affects the geographical distribution of tourist destinations and increases the quantity of the offer for foreign tourists over time, while boosting local and a balanced regional development within the country.
- More than seasonal tourism. While most tourism is seasonal, diaspora tourism may last longer. A large part of the diaspora members visit the homeland outside of the holiday season as well, because of the family visits as well as lower travel costs. This is an element that can lead to the extension of the holiday season, thus affecting the sustainability of tourism and revenues coming from it.
Given the driving factors for diaspora tourism, even if supply does not change, the number of visits is unlikely to fall, at least from the first generation of immigrants. The motives shape the experiences (even if negative) of this group as well as their assessment for services they get during the homecomings. “Diaspora tourists” are likely to disregard the quality of services in the country when making the decision to revisit the homeland. Consequently, it is assumed that there is a lack of demand for increased service quality.
However, the changing dynamics and demographics/generations of the diaspora will change over time the push factors for homeland visits. This may affect the number and intensity of diaspora visits to the homeland depending on the offer and quality of services we provide. New generations in the diaspora have less emotional ties to the country of origin, hence fewer motivating factors to visit it.
Therefore, from the perspective of tourism development, it is necessary to discuss the offer of Kosovo as a major tourist destination for the diaspora. There is potential to turn diaspora homecomings into catalysts for tourism development, but there is also a risk that this potential will be lost if we do not properly understand current demand and trends.
This opinion was motivated by the organization of the first edition of the festival “Go-to Sharr Fest”, where, among other things, was the discussion of ‘tourism and diaspora’ topic.