Successful entrepreneurship and a vibrant private sector are critical for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European future. I am always impressed when I meet with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s brightest business leaders, and this trip was no exception. My visit to the Sconto-Prom furniture company in Prijedor and meeting with entrepreneurs in Banja Luka encouraged me that even though much work is left to be done to create a more favorable business environment, Bosnia and Herzegovina has the people and the resources to succeed.
At Sconto-Prom’s headquarters, I received a warm welcome and detailed overview of the firm’s growth from its energetic Director Elizabeta Josipovic. I mentioned that Bosnia and Herzegovina has the people to succeed, and Mrs. Josipovic fits the bill. In fact, she will be a participant in the U.S. Department of State’s “Invest for the Future” conference in Zagreb, a forum later this month that will attract some of the most competent female entrepreneurs from the region.
Mrs. Josipovic’s commitment to working in both entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sconto-Prom’s ties to the global market are particularly important. Sconto-Prom produces furniture for international companies like IKEA, a model that has enabled the Prijedor firm to expand its business and employ more than 600 workers of all faiths, many of them returnees. Yet, larger firms like Sconto-Prom are not the only ones in Bosnia and Herzegovina that enjoy success. The young entrepreneurs with whom I met had taken the initiative to start or manage smaller businesses that, despite several obstacles, continue to improve their operations in various sectors – banking, agriculture, and textiles.
Of course, the growth of the private sector is not without challenges. As the group of entrepreneurs told me, corruption, public sector interference in business operations, and a difficult regulatory environment have all had an adverse impact on their businesses. A decrease in foreign investments has also hindered companies’ ability to modernize and expand. The U.S. Embassy will continue to work with Bosnian officials to create a better business environment and stimulate a more favorable investment climate. With talented executives like Mrs. Josipovic and a crop of committed entrepreneurs, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s economic future should only be brighter as the country proceeds towards integration in the European community.