Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of Sofia: Sofia Produces One-Third of Bulgarian Exports
Sofia produces 40% of the GDP in the country and one-third of the Bulgarian exports, Yordanka Fandakova, mayor of Sofia, said at the “Business Sofia 2018 – Digital Horizons” conference. The forum, organized by Sofia Investment Agency, was dedicated to the benefits and opportunities for the Bulgarian business in implementing a digital single market, the challenges in providing experts and the economic and financial programs of the European Union. Special guests at the conference, attended by the Top 100 Sofia companies, were EU Commissioner Maria Gabriel, MEP Andrey Novakov, Labor and Social Policy Minister Biser Petkov and Hewlett Packard Bulgaria General Manager Iravan Hira.
Sofia is the largest regional economy and in recent years the capital has increasingly been turning into an attractive place for investment, Mayor Yordanka Fandakova said. The mayor also emphasized that Sofia is working to develop partnerships with other cities. We are in a process of negotiating through Sofia Investment Agency and this year Sofia will join the European cities network in support of startup companies – SCALE (Startup City Alliance Europe) where the leading partner is the city of Amsterdam. The network comprises 19 organizations from 10 cities. Our goal is to set up a connected European ecosystem from startups and organizations aiming at facilitating the process of entering of new companies in foreign markets, Fandakova said.
Sofia Investment Agency is working on projects and specific cases with over 80 Bulgarian and foreign companies and has managed to present the opportunities in Sofia as a business destination in EU countries, South Korea and the Scandinavian countries. This year Sofia Municipality is a partner in organizing important events in the field of digital technologies. In June Sofia will host the international events for innovation within the Digital Week, which is organized in cooperation with the Bulgarian commissioner, Maria Gabriel. A Balkan Hackathon will also take place.
This places Sofia as an innovation hub in the Balkans and promotes the digital connectivity of the Balkan countries, Yordanka Fandakova said. She added that Sofia, together with Estonia and the Finnish city of Oulu, are partnering for digital transition in a European Commission program. A total of 36 European cities and regions are involved in the partnership.
The challenges to personal data security and EU policies were presented by EU Commissioner Maria Gabriel, whose competency is in the field of digital economy and digital society. She presented to the business the EU’s ambitious task to conclude the negotiations on all 25 Digital single market proposals by the end of the year. Her team is trying to speed up the negotiations on the proposed directive on copyright protection, offering a European strategy for artificial intelligence and maintaining communication with companies, depending on Brussels regulations. She urged Bulgarian companies to be active and take part in all EU projects and explained in details how this participation could happen.
Minister Biser Petkov presented data showing an unemployment rate in the country of 6.9% and an increased employment rate of 72.1%. He reminded that the goal is to achieve an employment rate of 75% of the population in 2020. More jobs were registered in 2017 – 240,000, mainly within the manufacturing industry.
Analysts believe that 2018 will record higher economic performance compared to 2017. The expected growth is about 4.4%, Vladimir Danailov, CEO of Sofia Investment Agency, said. He reminded that last year the GDP reached 3.6%, driven mainly by domestic consumption and exports. This year, it is expected that investments by local and foreign investors in capacity, staff development, modernization and efficiency, new markets will be added to these factors as well. Our economy’s growth structure is becoming more and more balanced. Private sector investments rose by some 7% in 2017 on an annual basis in real terms. It is expected all components of private investments to report growth in 2018, he added.