More than 150 young people from the regions of Armenia got together with representatives of the government and international organisations to take part in the ‘Empowering Regions Through High Tech’ conference organised by the EU4Business SMEDA project in Gyumri over two days last month.
Gyumri, the second largest city of Armenia, is aiming to become the IT capital of Armenia with its technological centre in the downtown and many locals obsessed with high tech.
“Many young people were a step away from migration but seeing that Gyumri Technological Centre exists they have decided to stay and learn programming. Initially, nobody believed that this project would come true,” said Amalya Yeghoyan, the business development manager of Gyumri Technological Centre (GTC).
A centre for job creation
Since its was established, the GTC has already created up to 200 jobs with almost 100 beneficiary companies, and educates 500 specialists annually. There are 25 local and international organisations located in the Centre.
The main goal of the conference was to promote economic development in the provinces of Armenia by analysing successful international strategies for small cities that can be implemented in Amenia. Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan, who was the honorary guest of the conference, zeroed in on boosting the economy of Armenia through technology, emphasising the active involvement of the regions in the process.
High technology as the accelerator of the economy
“We have set on developing high technologies in Armenia as the accelerator of our economy, the field has a huge potential of involving investments and export. At the same time, in the vision of empowering Armenia, regional development has a key importance, and without this, we will not have a good country. The mix of both can create a desirable result,” said prime minister Karapetyan.
The EU is the leading investor and economic partner of Armenia and this was reconfirmed during the first nine months of this year, with a 25 per cent increase in the trade turnover with European Union countries. Recently, the EU has granted €25 million to Armenia for launching a comprehensive digitalization system.
“I think the introduction of the e-government is something that is totally revolutionary in Armenia. People in Armenia do not know what is happening in e-governance. What is happening here, in Armenia, is not only good for Armenia; it is top of the lead worldwide. The transformation that Armenia is going through in e-governance in a couple of years will put Armenia not only on the map but on the top of the European countries in terms of e-governance,” said Hoa-Binh Adjemian, the head of cooperation for the EU Delegation to Armenia.
The event took place in partnership with international organisations and the EU4Business SMEDA project (Support to Small and Medium Enterprises Development of Armenia), which is co-funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and implemented by GIZ's Private Sector Development in South Caucasus Programme.
SMEDA focuses on small and medium enterprises in Armenia throughout the country including all the regions of Armenia.
“The companies in the regions are highly important. We have already talked about the big economic potential of education and economic strength of a country. Improving economic performance in the regions is what we try to do with our project. The focus is to improve design and management of economic clusters. When we speak about economic clusters, we mean incubators, we mean technoparks, technology centres here in Gyumri and in Vanadzor, we mean free economic zones in Armenia,” said Eva Naeher, SMEDA’s team leader.
‘Show your potential!’
Eva Naeher called for the young people to “show their potential” and “team up with their peers” who share their ideas as a key to scrape through in business.
“Group up and become stronger! If you are not alone, it is easier to attract investors and investment. There are many examples internationally when a single company did not manage to attract investors but when they joined up, they created something bigger they were known for, and they found partners. So, come together and show what you have,” she said.
The main topics discussed during the first day of the conference, like changing mindsets, creating successful entrepreneurship, and development of the regions, were practiced on the second day during various workshops with the participating young people.
The EU4Business SMEDA project supports the improvement of the business and investment climate for SMEs in Armenia. It aims to strengthen the private sector, support SME coordination mechanisms, and foster links between research institutions and the private sector, as well as providing access to finance for SMEs.