The International Finance Corporation's Business Associations Capacity Building Project

The International Finance Corporation's Business Associations Capacity Building Project (http://www.ifc.org/ifcext/belarus.nsf/Content/Home) was launched on October 1, 2002. The project's focus is not haphazard but rather reflects the important role that business associations should play in the protection and promotion of the interests of the business community. The project aims to boost the capacity of Belarusian business associations to develop their membership base, expand the range of services available to members as well as improve their quality. Also the project seeks to enable its partner business associations to build up their image and lobbying potential.

Over the first year, the Project has worked with the following five business associations:
-Belarusian Union of Entrepreneurs http://www.baeonline.org;
-Minsk City Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers http://www.allminsk.biz/;
-Brest Region Union of Entrepreneurs http://spbo.iatp.by/;
-Association of Employers and Entrepreneurs (Vitebsk) http://anp2003.at.tut.by/;
-Entrepreneurs' Club NGO (Grodno).

In October 2003 the Project has extended its outreach to Mogilev and Gomel regions, where it will work with two new partners Mogilev Regional Public Association of Entrepreneurs and Gomel Regional Public Association of Entrepreneurs "Yedinstvo".

The following two Swedish business associations are also involved in the project execution: the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Southern Sweden (http://www.handelskammaren.com) and the Federation of Private Enterprises of Sweden (http://www.fr.se). These two largest business support organizations have an extensive history and a wealth of experience of providing services and promoting the interests of their members both in Sweden and abroad.

The project has a two-year span during which IFC consultants and representatives of the Sweden business associations will conduct quarterly working meetings and seminars for specialists of Belarusian business associations. This enables Belarusian associations to study the Swedish experience of interacting with members and customers, rendering services, and assisting members to expand into foreign markets. To get a better grasp of the way their Swedish counterparts operate, a group of the representatives of the Belarusian business associations went on a study tour to Sweden in April 2003. In the course of the trip, they visited the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Southern Sweden and the Federation of Private Enterprises of Sweden to familiarize themselves with the modus operandi of these organizations.

Partnership with the largest Swedish business associations will allow Belarusian business associations to help Belarusian small and medium-sized companies to find business partners in Sweden. For example, an important step in this regard will be a visit of Swedish business people to Belarus scheduled to take place during the second year of the project's operation. In the course of the trip, the Swedish entrepreneurs will get to meet potential Belarusian partners and will attend a business projects fair which will showcase proposals put forward by Belarusian enterprises to create joint ventures.

A computer database of foreign trade for Belarusian companies will also be created under the project to establish commercial ties between Swedish and Belarusian enterprises, seek out new markets for competitive Belarusian goods, as well as business partners and investors. The database will be distributed among Swedish businesses by the project's partners, namely the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Southern Sweden and the Federation of Private Enterprises of Sweden.

At the final stage of the Project, 15 Belarusian enterprises, which are members of the partner business associations, will participate in the Swedish fair of subcontractors «Elmia Subcontractor 2004» — the largest fair of subcontractors of its kind in Northern Europe and the second largest worldwide. It is held annually in J?nk?ping, Sweden. (http://www.elmia.se)