Tbilisi: Where Regions Meet
03 May, 2012
Tbilisi:  Where Regions Meet

Tbilisi becomes the city where the regions meet to share experience and discuss problems at the international level through the annual international economic forums initiated by Tbilisi City Hall. 

 

Education and infrastructure development were two key issues under the focus of the 6th International Economic Forum held by Tbilisi City Hall on April 25-26. It aimed to share experience and discuss the Future City prospects at the international level.

“Two key issues were of common concern - how to develop the city:

education and infrastructure..If you don’t invest in education of youth who will be working for your cities?” Vera Kobalia, Minister of Economic and Sustainable Development of Georgia, said when she assessed the traditional annual international forum, which is organized by Tbilisi City Hall each year starting 2007.  Discussion of the prospects of how cities should develop in future attracted 80 representatives of more than 20 countries from Europe, Asia and Africa to Tbilisi along with the diplomatic corps, governmental and non-governmental sectors, universities and civil society representatives.

The forum unfolded in several parallel sessions to discuss major issues of city development like building international communication network among cities, city management forms as well as what makes cities competitive from living conditions point of view in Europe, Asia and Africa likewise.

According to Zviad Archuadze, head of Economic Affairs Office of City Hall, the forum is an excellent platform getting closer not only self-governance and central government bodies from different countries but also gathers businessmen from all regions  creating partnership opportunities laying ground to investment attraction in future.

“This forum is not connected with attraction of direct investments as such; it is focused on sharing of experience and partnership, but it is a platform where people with different interests meet and build partnership,” Archuadze said in the interview with Georgian Journal. “There are two categories who arrives here, those who take our experience, for example Juba, an African city that is on the new developing phase and seeks for partners, and cities who are ready for such partnership and they meet here; there are also cities that can be interested to act as a middle chain for them, a circle is closed and then they are interested in investing in each other or build some other kind of partnership.   The forum is representative on a very large scale that creates such partnership opportunities, for this is platform where people can meet privet sector and government, universities and non-governmental organizations all together at once”.

The Polish IT sector has already found partnership and investment opportunities in Georgia after meetings with business sector at the forum.  A delegation from Chongping, a Chinese city with 20 million of population, discusses investment opportunities in Georgia too, Archuadze assures. However Georgian business sector was not too representative at the forum that created excellent opportunity to get in direct contacts with heads of foreign cities so as to find new markets and expand their business. Mayors of African cities for example appeared quite interested in water and medical service provision, but none of Georgian relative companies turned out at the venue.

“We informed all the business associations operating in Georgia about the coming forum event but they did not come as you see. Maybe this is lack of business skills or maybe Georgian business had not much expectations toward forum representatives while exporting water for example to Africa is quite a chance, it is much bigger than Russian market by the way,” Archuadze regrets. “Maybe some think that they have restricted producing potential sufficient to meet demands of local and already secured export markets, but we plan to enhance work to this end in future and attract more business.”

Next year City Hall plans to attract more business to the forum through the exhibition for companies that provide services to cities and cities in their turn will explain why they need investments in their services.

Georgian business has already taken some benefits from earlier economic forums however. The first  economic forum organized by Tbilisi City Hall was dedicated to Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) development and having sharing experience of other developed cities Tbilisi government introduced some SME supporting projects as an aftermath. The second forum focused on real estate sector and establishing partnership between City Hall and Georgian developers followed in result: Tbilisi government worked out an Old City supporting project involving banks and developers since the sector was stagnated after the double impact of the August war and global financial crisis of 2008, and negotiated banks to disburse credits under City Hall guarantee to perspective developer projects.

Then the forum grew out of narrow local topics into international level gradually and its geographic compass enhanced. And if before Tbilisi government was mainly focused on taking experience of other cities now it has something to share and export to others too. Having heard of reforms from Tbilisi Mayor himself and delving in sanitary and infrastructure projects by firsthand experience Mayors of African cities ask Tbilisi colleagues to share their experience through sending skilful professionals to their cities.

But the key benefit Tbilisi gets of its annual international economic forum is that it became a venue where regions meet, Archuadze believes.

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