The Balkan Davos has called for regional reintegration with common policy and shared values covering multiculturalism, multi-religious and ethnicity as a strategy to move forward. The 10th edition of Sarajevo Business Forum has sought to work for a common purpose and to work together as one region and one economy. This is so as to hedge the current situation and the crossroads ahead. The forum aimed to make the region a single economy under the slogan of One region-one economy.
The Conference was initially organized in 2010 and since then, has been held every year. This year, SBF gathered large delegations from Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Albania, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Libya, Kuwait, and Oman. During the forum, business presentations, meetings aiming for networking of participants and development of new business opportunities paid special attention to the economic potential of BiH and its young people .
SBF hosted nearly 2,000 businesspeople from 50 countries around world held over 450 meetings in the Bosnian capital. The forum has been held since 2010 in a collaborative effort by Bosna Bank International and the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank. The SBF, dubbed the Balkan Davos, this year had the slogan One region, one economy.
SBF is inspired by the tragic incidences that spurred a number of lessons, setting many Bosnians to thinking very hard about their future, if not survival. One of them is the architect of SBF, Amer Bukvic an International Islamic University Malaysia alumni and now CEO of Bosna Bank International, who described the forum as an emotional project because it took many years to realise the event.
350 projects were presented during the three-day event. The forum has come up with over 300 project ideas over the past 10 years and the forum has prepared a presentation book of close to 300 projects. We have projects in tourism, agriculture, energy sector, infrastructure, wood, metal, education and others,
A wide range of subjects was discussed during the panels, including leadership, challenges, sustainable development, investment climate, youth employment, banking, and technology. The international conference is recognized as one of the most significant business and investment events in Southeast Europe. The forum will, for three days, gather almost 2,000 participants, and 300 projects will be presented.
In all, SBF for the 10th year exhibited a high level of maturity and readiness which was clearly evident through the panel discussions held. Apart from the usual subjects of leadership roles and issues of brain drain/gain, sustainable development (SD) featured well as the new agenda that straddles between the two.
This means that the future leaders must be conversant about SD which could also be a factor in reducing brain drain, if not to improve brain gain. What is apparent is that unsustainable (counterpoint to SD) development could encourage brain drain because of the natural tendencies to seek greener (pun intended) pastures when all seems to be beyond reach (unequitable prosperity).
Thus, it has direct implications to the goals of SD in creating an ecosystem that is fair, just and balanced. This is what escapes many businesses today that look at SD as another incremental tool rather than a transformational model that changes everything before it has any meaningful impact on sustainability.
This means that the leadership role in an heirachical pyramidal structure is not sustainable due to its rigidity and top-down tendencies. Instead it has to be organisationally flatter and networked like that of nature where it is more connected at the roots and thus truly borderless and sustainable
For example, the language used is no longer about a linear growth economy but that of a circular one; eco in the conventional economy is all things ecological as a counterweight to economic imbalances of the past in safeguarding the one and only planet and all of its inhabitants to co-exist in a harmonious balance.
Similarly, at the opening ceremony, Chairman of BiH’s Presidency Milorad Dodik emphasized that BiH is a stable country for business. You can develop your business here with certainty, calling on the businessmen to invest in BiH. BiH is becoming, as well as the entire region, a place of Chinese investments.
Not to be forgotten were the number of dignitaries who were actively involved. One of them was Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a founding patron of SBF, then and now as the prime minister of Malaysia. Dr Mahathir in his address was clearly excited to be with SBF again in his present capacity. He urged SBF to seek common purpose and to work together as one region and one economy. This is so as to hedge the current situation and the crossroads ahead.
Another person who appeared outstanding in the evolution of SBF was former prime minister of Turkey, Dr Ahmet Davutoglu. Being a professor to Amer, his influence could not be underestimated as he recounted what could be done to counter the potential challenges ahead. Like Dr Mahathir, regional reintegration with common policy and shared values covering multiculturalism, multireligious and ethnicity seems to be his strategy to move forward.
In other words, SBF 10 has opened up new vistas to thinking afresh, instead of merely tinkering with the same old ways to jump start. To quote Amer in his opening remarks: History will be judging us is indeed apt as a reminder that the SBF has clearly raised the stakes for all those present at the forum with clear signals that the days ahead are extremely bright.
Also, not to lose focus over is the brightened common path to the collective future, and not to be gullible over the many distractions that take away the higher sense of purpose, blinded by the same bright lights that veil the vision ahead. Issues like the fourth industrial revolution could be just one if artificial intelligence is allowed to overshadow and reign over human primodial intelligence (the fitrah) beyond the technological singularity as it stands.
In summary, the next SBFs will face even more difficult tasks ahead in humanising technology through business unusual, if history is indeed to judge us favourably. Therein lies the vital lesson of magic of the recent SBF. The writer, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector.
Moreover, for every country or region that wants prosperity and to be successful, a unique vision and common purpose is needed. We must work in partnership with others towards a common goal, Mohamad said. Over the past ten years, the Malaysian premier said, the forum has grown into a living platform that gathers the region. Mohammad is one of the founders of the forum.
Slovenian President Borut Pahor in his address stated that EU’s enlargement policy in the next few years should be more flexible, but that governments of Western Balkans countries should accelerate reforms as well. It is time for the European Commission and the EU to see the Western Balkans as a geopolitical issue.
When a new European Commission is formed, one of the most important issues will be the issue of the speed of the enlargement process. I would like to say that it is now time for the European Commission and the EU to view the Western Balkans as a geopolitical issue and its [EU’s] expansion to the area as a geopolitical topic, Pahor said.
He said that the European Union’s (EU) enlargement policy in the next few years should be more flexible, more political, and less technical. I want a safe and successful future for Bosnia and Herzegovina. I believe that this safe and successful future is closely linked to the accession of the EU.
The Slovenian president pointed that if EU ignores the Western Balkans, the old nationalist political forces will emerge. The old nationalist political forces will emerge, they will try to change the borders on ethnic basis and this will jeopardize the security of this part of Europe and the security of the whole of Europe, said Pohor.
The forum also emphasized that regional countries needed to adjust their educational systems to labour-market trends so they could continue developing in the future. The whole region is facing challenges such as youth departure, educational reforms and high unemployment rate. Solution to this is the harmonisation of educational systems with market trends, considering that younger generations are showing an exceptional talent for technology. Without this, no country can progress.