MAY 14 - 16, 2019
DCFTA Implementation: Partnership, Push-backs & Potential Conference BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI
he implementers of the EUfunded project ‘Georgia on the European Way: Effective Model for DCFTA and SME Strategy Implementation’ hosted the project’s closing conference, ‘DCFTA Implementation: Partnership, Push-backs and Potential’ at Holiday Inn, Tbilisi, on May 8. After signing the Association Agreement with the EU in 2014, a crucial part of which is the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), Georgia has come closer to integration into the EU market. The DCFTA simultaneously represents both an opportunity and challenge for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), activating institutional and regulatory reforms and helping approximate Georgian standards to those of the EU. Yet, it demands change in production processes as well as regulations of activities. As such, during the implementation, Georgia faces many advantages as well as various challenges. The EU-funded project ‘Georgia on the European Way’ was launched in 2017 and lasted until spring 2019. The main aim of the project was to raise awareness about the opportunities and advantages provided by the DCFTA between Georgia and the EU. During the process, implementers tried to increase the crucial role of Georgian civil organizations in a nationwide DCFTA/SME communication campaign to help local SMEs access the EU single market through their strong capabilities. The project was funded by the European Neighborhood Instrument and
co-funded by the Lithuanian Development Cooperation and Democracy Promotion Program and the Slovak Official Development Assistance ‘SlovakAid.’ The project’s closing conference presented results in three main panels: 1) civil society engagement in economic development, 2) DCFTA and SME strategy implementation in Georgia and 3) DCFTA implementation in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The conference was opened by Giedrius Puodziunas, Ambassador of Lithuania to Georgia; Pavel Vizdal, Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to Georgia; Carl Hartzell, Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia; Khatia Tsilosani, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture
of Georgia; and others. They congratulated Georgia on such a great project and highlighted the EU’s role as the biggest trade partner of Georgia. They talked about the standards Georgia has to approximate to those of the EU, and about the EU’s support in info-sharing, finance, entrepreneurship support, training programs for companies and more. The civil society engagement panel looked into the current position of civil society organizations (CSO) and their capabilities to work on economic issues, helping the Georgian government and SMEs to effectively access the EU single market. The panelists talked about experiences and good practices for civil society organizations seen during the project, including their workshops, the act of
delivering the right information about the DCFTA and EU, and the advantages, benefits, energy efficiency, EU directives, regulations, role of cooperatives and advocating for reforms and improvements to the implementation process. Results showed how CSO awareness had increased (before the project only 12% was very familiar with the DCFTA, and after 83%) but spotlighted the need for more trainings and consulting. At the conclusion of the project, the main results concluded that: 1) after the right communication and info-sharing, people had changed their standings towards the DCFTA, forming perspectives and breaking the old stereotypes; and 2) civil society organizations should be a key link between government and SMEs.
The session ‘DCFTA and SME Strategy implementation in Georgia’ focused on SME conditions today, surveying how they operate, what they export and on raising awareness of how SMEs can benefit from the DCFTA. The discussion included what progress has been achieved in Georgia-EU trade relations since signing the DCFTA, what kind of products the country exports to the EU, and the long-term progress that can be expected. The main obstacles for SMEs, such as getting the certificates needed to export, qualified employees, financial problems, language barriers, lack of laboratory centers, less active approach, were noted and it was advised that “Georgia should continue such projects,” and “needs to do more for further benefits.” The last panel focused on ‘DCFTA Implementation in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine,’ looking at the varied challenges and perspectives and the impact on ordinary citizens. Panelists talked about what impact the DCFTA has on the countries’ economies, what progress has been achieved in the framework of the Eastern Partnership document ‘20 Deliverables for 2020,’ and emphasized what needs to be done further. Overall, the topics discussed at the conference showed the real partnerships, push-backs and potential of DCFTA implementation. Georgia has come steps closer to integration into the European market; however, it has much more to do. Such projects are vitally important, the moderators and panelists agreed, and further awareness needs to be raised about the real benefits of the DCFTA for people throughout Georgia to help SMEs do their jobs more effectively and to those standards that the EU has and requires.
Future Agro Challenge Held May 10-12 in Tbilisi BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
he 2019 Future Agro Challenge Georgia was held on May 10-12 at Tbilisi’s Tech Park. Future Agro Challenge is an international competition that aims to foster a community of startups, farmers, manufacturers, distributors, and what the organization calls “agro-visionaries.” The competition brings together stakeholders from countries worldwide to start a global conversation, focused around discovering fundable food, agricultural technology, agro-tourism and agriculture innovators and “agripreneurs.” This is the first year Georgia has participated in Future Agro Challenge, supported by the Tbilisi Startup Bureau, Georgian Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA), and Beeline. Each year, there are different categories delimited by Future Agro Challenge. This year, there are nearly 30 categories, ranging from the more traditional: agro tourism, farmers’ incomes, indoor agriculture, and food traceability and safety, to the innovative: dairy alternatives, drones and robots, food e-commerce, and precision agriculture. Participants in the Future Agro Challenge are owners of an agribusiness venture that has existed for less than five years, which claims an innovative, scalable clear business model, has a customer
segment, has initial market traction or a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and has unique, strong and applicable technology or innovation. In the weekend’s competition, Georgian agribusiness startups participated in a 48-hour hackathon after which the eight finalist teams pitched their agribusiness concepts to a panel of judges. The winning team, Qvevri XYZ, was deemed “Agripreneur of the Year.” Qvevri XYZ was selected by the judges to represent Georgia at the Future Agro Challenge Global Championship, a central event of the Global Agripreneurs’ Summit, which will be held this year September 7-11 in Thessaloniki, Greece. Participation in the Global Championship will grant the national winner access to world class mentors, investors, potential clients and new market opportunities, along with winners from 59 other countries. The national winner was also granted a cash prize. The grand prize winner, Qvevri XYZ, is a young Georgian company that has decided to take on a national icon, the qvevri, a clay amphora-shaped vessel traditionally used for fermenting wine. While the qvevri wine-making method was granted the status of Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2013, Qvevri XYZ argues that the 8000-year-old “primitive methods of production,” make modern qvevris “inaccessible, inconsistent and not of good quality.” They offer another approach: 3D printed qvevris. The company pledges to retain elements of the traditional qvevri-making process,
Image source: Future Agro Challenge
blended with modern technology to “improve its structure and quality, yet [keep] its unique characteristics.” Two other ventures were recognized at Sunday’s finals: Insect Killer, a company that manufactures a device to catch and kill the brown marmorated stink bug that has ravaged Georgian agricul-
ture in recent years, received a GEL 2000 ($730) cash prize, and SoilQuick Tester, a hardware and software product that helps quickly test the soil, which received technical assistance from the Georgian Farmers’ Association. Future Agro Challenge Georgia’s partners are the Friedrich Naumann Foun-
dation for Freedom South Caucasus, Caucasus University, ISET - International School of Economics, Agro Solutions, Wolt, Agricopter, Gogra.ge, Georgian Farmers' Association, Enterprise Georgia, Georgian National Tourism Administration, and the Tbilisi Night Economy Development Project.
May 14 - 16, 2019