Student Enterprises in Bosnia 2003.
BIP, working together with the Soros Open Society Fund BiH, have initiated Student Enterprise Programs at 15 schools in 9 cities in Bosnia. When students have completed school, the projects with the most promise will be granted subsidies to assist with their commercialization and start up. A capital risk fund is also available. In spring 2003, some 55 student-enterprises and 300 students participated at the Student Enterprises Trade Show in Sarajevo. BIP is working closely with the EU Vocation Education and Training program (EU-VET) and OSCE to start up the program in Mostar.
Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo - situation and challenges.
In the aftermath of war and strife, Bosnia and Croatia like other countries in the region face several challenges which should probably not be viewed separately. These are democratization and ethnic reconciliation, as well as economic restoration and development.
During the wars and conflicts that have plagued the Balkans since the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, all ethnic groups were both exposed to and committed injustices on their own. The result of this is a huge number of refugees, including displaced persons in the region and refugees in other countries. The high unemployment rate in the region means also that a large proportion of the population views the future with pessimism. Many, particularly young people, want to emigrate to ensure a more secure economic future.
In Norway, there are refugees and asylum-seekers from the Balkan territories. All asylum-seekers from the Balkans get their application reviewed individually. For information about the rules for asylum in Norway and statistics, please check www.udi.no , the home pages of the Directorate of Immigration. Information is available in several languages.
The entrepreneurship courses BIP organizes in Norway are intended to give repatriated refugees a better chance to earn a living. However, BIP does not require that course participants return once they have completed the course. It is always the Norwegian authorities, as represented by the Directorate of Immigration (UDI), that decide who is entitled to stay in Norway. Participation in courses under the auspices of BIP is thus not a factor which disqualifies anyone for residence in Norway, provided the individual satisfies the requirements otherwise.
BIP and the Loan Fund for Economic Development in former Yugoslavia.
The Business Innovation Programs Foundation was formally established in January 1999. BIP's forerunner was the Bosnia Project, based on the Østfold County model, which organized entrepreneurship courses for Bosnians in Norway and initiated a number of economic development projects in Bosnia.
BIP is a project organization which unites employees and partners who have the appropriate expertise in relation to each individual project. BIP generally applies two basic concepts for developing expertise and entrepreneurial skills to promote economic development in the Balkans:
- The FRAM business development program for small- and medium-sized enterprises.
- Entrepreneurship as a subject at the upper secondary level.
These concepts can best be described briefly as "help for self-help". The idea is that by transferring knowledge and developing local expertise, it will be possible to give enterprises a chance to survive in the future without financial support from the outside, while creating fertile conditions for entrepreneurship and founding new companies.
These concepts also open opportunities for co-operation between enterprises in the Balkans and in Norway. BIP coordinates the initial contact, then the enterprises themselves administrate co-operation in the long term.
Individuals who have completed a skills enhancement program can apply for micro-credit from the Loan Fund for Economic Development in former Yugoslavia which was established in 1998. There is a ceiling of EUR 12 500 on these loans. The loans are interest-only for the first six months, after which time repayment is based on a set plan featuring favourable terms.
As of December 2000, the Loan Fund had 29 active loans in Bosnia and these loans had created 197 jobs. The funding is rolled over, allowing more people the opportunity to apply for micro-credit. To help stabilise the situation in the area, high priority is given to multi-ethnic ventures.
In Croatia, the loans are administrated by the local lending institution NOA. The directors of the Loan Fund are individuals from Norwegian business and industry and community life, and resource people from the Bosnian community in Norway.
In addition to the administration of micro-credits, a new task for the Loan Fund is to create guidelines for the establishment of a scholarship system for participants in the Youth Enterprise program who wish to start their own business after finishing school. This is meant to encourage the pupils to use their acquired skills to start real enterprises.
The FRAM Program.
FRAM is a program for management of business strategy development and training and in small- and medium-sized enterprises. The program was developed by the Norwegian Industrial and Regional Development Fund (SND). The goal of the FRAM program is to improve competitiveness and profitability of SMEs. The scheme is a combination of advisory services and seminars.
A key part of the FRAM process is that it begins with a situational analysis, then the involved parties decide what they want to achieve in the company (setting objectives/goals) and how to go about doing it (develop the strategy).
In Norway, the FRAM Program has 120 approved corporate advisors, and about 2400 small and medium size Norwegian companies have participated successfully in the program since its introduction in 1994. The FRAM Program is a useful tool for enterprises in all countries, and it is easy to adapt the concept, with small adjustments, to local conditions.
In Croatia there was no tradition of business consulting services. In co-operation with the University of Osijek and the Center for Entrepreneurship, BIP initiated a project in Osijek. By spring of 2002 this resulted in 12 educated and approved FRAM consultants. Experience from this pilot project has been used to adjust the program to the local conditions.
From the autumn of 2002 the program will run over a period of twelve months and consist of five seminars. The working tools have now been simplified and made accessible through the internet.
In cooperation with the World Bank organization South European Enterprise Development (SEED) and BIP, the consultants from Osijek held seminars in Bosnia for university students and professors. The seminars were held at the universities in the cities of Mostar, Sarajevo and Banja Luka.
During the school year 2000/2001 BIP initiated a Student Enterprise project in schools of the war-torn city of Vukovar in East Slavonia in Croatia. Student Enterprises is a subject being taught in a steadily increasing number of upper secondary schools in Europe.
For one school year, a group of students work together to set up, run and wind-up an enterprise. Each student enterprise has a supervisor from industry, thus ensuring both knowledge and contacts. The project has been extended during the school year and is now being taught in six schools in Croatia. Both the program and the training material, that have been translated from Norwegian, are approved by the Ministry of Education and Sport in Zagreb.
The schools experience great enthusiasm for the program. Several student enterprises in the region have made contacts with Norwegian and Hungarian student enterprises and exchanged knowledge and experience. Data is an important communication tool in this context, and all students have received thorough training at the computer center BIP runs in Vukovar in co-operation with their local partner, Center for Peace.
The hope is that in the future, young people will take advantage of the expertise and contacts they acquire by studying the subject Student Enterprises and will set up their own enterprises. The scholarship/grant administrated by The Loan Found should also give economic incentives.
Student Enterprise Fair in Croatia, May 2002.
In May about 100 youth from Croatia, Hungary and Norway participated in a Student Enterprise Fair in the city of Erdut. The region is known for wine production.
The Croatian students participated in a contest where rewards were given for best product, best stand and best business idea. The enterprise that gathered most in total points also won a trip to Norway in February 2003. The winning enterprise came from an agricultural school in Dalj and made several different kinds of products out of corn.
The winner in the class for best business idea came from the same school and produced honey and honey products. These students have contact with a similar student enterprise in Norway and during the fair they exchanged several ideas. While the Croatian students had made a recipe book, the Norwegians had made candles, soap and candy. Efforts are now being made to bring also these Croatian students to Norway.
During the fair there were also arranged courses in the subject of Student Enterprises for local teachers.
Exporting Croatian honey to Norway.
The honey producing student enterprises get counselling from bee-farmers in their respective countries. These bee-farmers have also their established contacts over the borders.
In October 2001 a Croatian honey producer and the head master of an agricultural school in Dalj visited Norway. In connection with the Student Enterprise Fair in Erdut, the Norwegians returned the visit. Representatives from the Norwegian "Honningsentralen", a marketing organisation for Norwegian beekeepers, also participated. In addition to the cooperation between the bee-farmers on areas like equipment, disease eradication, quality and security regulations, work is now being done for exporting Croatian honey to Norway.
Samples of Croatian honey is thus being analysed at "Honningsentralen" in Norway, while an application for financial support for honey production equipment has already been sent to NORAD. The plan is to have a honey extraction facility with modern equipment that can be used by both bee-farmers and student enterprises. This facility will contribute to a considerable increase in the quality of the locally produced honey.
Projects in East Slavonia in Croatia - Vukovar.
The city of Vukovar and the surrounding areas have been devastated by the war. Acts of war have left countless houses without roofs and with huge holes in the walls. Worst of all, however, is seeing buildings and signs peppered with bullet holes, and in some places shooters have even amused themselves by shooting in patterns. One can only imagine what suffering the people here have endured and how many lives have been lost.
In these days people are struggling with the aftermath of the war. Nearly all business activities have been destroyed, the unemployment rate is about 70 per cent in the region, although it is as high as 90 per cent in some places. It is not difficult to understand that the struggles of many people in this area are of both psychological and economic nature.
In Vukovar, BIP's key partner is the Center for Peace (CfP). CfP is an apolitical organization that provides legal advice, as well as psychological and social support to those who live in the Vukovar area. CfP's goal is to convey a message of tolerance for all individuals, regardless of background and affiliation, as well as to facilitate the process of democratization.
BIP works together with the Center for Peace on the Student Enterprise Project and computer courses. BIP owns the computer equipment used, while the Center for Peace is responsible for running the courses. Computer courses are offered to all who participate in BIP's projects as well as to the population at large.
There is tremendous interest in the computer courses which are running more or less continuously. Participants include Serbs and Croats, men and women alike, ranging in age from 19 to 60. The computer teachers report that many participants are unemployed and that this is the first contact most of them have ever had with computers.
Course participants receive more than 70 hours of thorough computer training, focused both on technical knowledge and word processing. The center has an ISDN line and the computer equipment is of very high quality.
Projects in East Slavonia in Croatia - Osijek.
With its 130 000 inhabitants, Osijek is one of the largest cities in Croatia. Although not comparable to Vukovar, the destruction is nonetheless considerable. People report that the problems in Osijek are not as visible, but probing the surface reveals both economic and psychological difficulties.
Business activities and infrastructure in town have been hit hard by the war. Osijek airport was so completely destroyed during the war that it was closed for all air traffic up to 2002 when it was partly reopened.
The Rehabilitation Center for War Veterans in Osijek has also been an important partner of BIP. The center offers psychological and social help for war veterans.
Based upon earlier projects for occupational rehabilitation for war victims and professionally handicapped persons, in cooperation with BIP the Rehabilitation Center has registered three new companies in the areas of ceramic production, video production, and vision screening and the making of glasses. People working in these companies have gone through a program that has focused both on specific professional skills and general business training.
Multi-ethnic profile in practice.
The Serbian minority in Croatia has no problem whatsoever when it comes to safety. However, many feel they are discriminated against by the Croatian population in a number of areas. The Center for Peace contends that the entire population of East Slavonia, regardless of whether they are Serbs, Croats or members of other ethnic groups, are discriminated against in relation to other Croatian nationals. They also say that relations between the various ethnic groups are still extremely tense.
This situation is difficult for outsiders to understand. Accordingly, it is absolutely essential to respect the fact that the situation is difficult and inflamed, at the same time as one works to reduce the level of conflict by helping improve the economic situation in the area.
Projects in Bosnia.
Bosnia was the first country in which BIP initiated its projects. This was related to the fact that the first entrepreneurship course BIP organized in Norway was for Bosnians.
In December 1997, four course participants helped start a Center for Entrepreneurship in Sanski Most. Set up in co-operation with the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Center offered advisory services for economic development and the rehabilitation of war veterans. By the time the joint project concluded in 1999, six-week entrepreneurship courses had been run for a total of 220 participants.
BIP's current projects in Bosnia are being conducted in Srbska, and involve collaboration between Bosnian and Norwegian enterprises in the fields of lumber products, fish farming, agriculture and dairy operations. The idea is that the enterprises sign Joint Venture agreements which would result in long-term, mutually profitable relations. The projects were originally run in close cooperation with USAID Business Consulting in Banja Luka.
Lumber products in Bosnia.
There is a high demand in Norway for types of wood such as oak and beech, species found in abundance in the Balkans. The lumber project has facilitated the establishment of a business link between the Bosnian company Jela and the Norwegian company Odin furniture, meaning wood is currently being exported from Bosnia to Norway, while expertise is being transferred from the Norwegian enterprise to the Balkans.
Several Norwegian furniture companies have shown considerable interest in importing Bosnian beech wood and are waiting to see the results of the co-operation between Jela and Odin.
Fish farming in Bosnia.
When it comes to fish farming, co-operative efforts focus on the export of goods to Norway and the transfer of expertise to Bosnia. In addition, Norway has supplied production equipment to the Bosnian fish-farming facilities Tropic and Florex/MbMix.
Agriculture in Bosnia.
In Srbska, an agricultural project has been initiated jointly by USAID and BIP. The project is a collaboration between GENO (a breeders' organization which is part of the Norwegian agriculture co-operative) and the dairy company Mlijekoprodukt, with support from the Bosnian and Norwegian governments. Norges Vel, a holding organization of the Norwegian agriculture, is also involved.
The background for the project is that after the war few cows were left in Bosnia, since most of the animals were slaughtered because of food shortage. In addition to this, the agricultural sector is changing from being large community and family farms to cattle industry as we are familiar with in Norway.
Four training farms from the Dubica Gradiska region have been selected to participate in the program. In October 2001 they received 45 NRF cows from Norway and they now go through training related to this. The NRF cattle is well suited for the Bosnian climate and they can be used for both milk and meat production.
In August 2001 two representatives from The Ministry of Agriculture in Srbska, the manager of Mlijekoprodukt and four farmers visited Norway and received training in animal husbandry, health and the necessary requirements for farm buildings. The training included also practical experience at Norwegian farms, as well as visits to dairies and slaughterhouses. Additional training was held in Bosnia in January and August 2002.
Dairy operations in Bosnia.
The Mlijekoprodukt Dairy is a key player when it comes to co-operating with GENO. BIP is helping the dairy build up a laboratory by procuring used lab equipment and providing training. Used equipment such as milk tanks, milking machines and various dairy components have been shipped from Norway to Bosnia.
The Student Enterprise Program in Bosnia.
From the school year 2002/2003 Student Enterprises is a subject taught in upper secondary schools in the cities of Mostar, Sarajevo, Tuzla, Doboj and Banja Luka. 2-3 schools will participate in each town. Computer centers are established as a part of the program, while the teachers got their training the summer of 2002.
The concept will be run as a three year program. BIP will run the project in close cooperation with the Bosnian Ministries of Education (both in the Federation and Srbska), Office for High Representative and Open Society Foundation Bosnia and Hercegovina. A fund for scholarships/grants has also been set up and the ambition is to establish connections between student enterprises in Bosnia, Croatia and Norway.
Donors and partners.
BIP's projects are generally financed by the Norwegian authorities through the Directorate of Immigration, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and through NORAD. The agricultural project in Srbska has received financial support also from the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture, while the Open Society Foundation BiH is supporting the Student Enterprise project in Bosnia.
The projects run by BIP are mainly initiated in response to inquiries made by donors or local authorities.
In the autumn of 2000, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) conducted a survey in Bosnia among young people from 14 to 25 years of age, about all aspects of their living conditions. Based on the report's striking conclusions, BIP was contacted by the Bosnian authorities about doing something for these young people. The Student Enterprise Project in Bosnia is a result of this.
The inquiry was canalized through the editor of the Bosanska Posta in Norway, Mr. Dzevad Tasic, who is also one of the Board members for the Loan Fund for Economic Development in former Yugoslavia.
Norwegian embassies in the region provide advice and support in respect of local work. With a view to the micro-credit schemes, efforts are being made to coordinate Norwegian efforts in terms of allocation criteria, so the loans also help facility the requisite human resource development. There is also a desire to give preference to enterprises that contribute to increase added value, enterprises that generate export revenues and enterprises that have an explicitly stated and clearly implemented multi-ethnic profile.
Collaboration with local resources and authorities is at the core of BIP's work. It is extremely important to establish recipient responsibility, under which local resources assume responsibility and ownership for continued operation of the project, once the support period is completed.
BIP involves Norwegian organisations, enterprises and other resources in a number of fields. At the moment an important task is to create a system of scholarships/grants and to establish possibilities of exchange for the participants in the Student Enterprise Programs in both Croatia and Bosnia.