Representatives from the private sector, civil society and central and local authorities took part in the Regional Investment Forum, held in Ozurgeti on 20 May. At the Forum, participants presented new municipal investment profiles, showcased local entrepreneurs and discussed opportunities for regional and local economic development in the post-pandemic period.
Attendees included Anna Chernyshova, Acting Head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Mzia Giorgobiani, Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure; and Alexander Karner, Head of the Austrian Development Cooperation’s local office in Tbilisi.
The Forum served as a platform to explore investment opportunities, business potential and partnership possibilities in the region. Tailored investment profiles of the Lanchkhuti, Chokhatauri and Ozurgeti municipalities — developed with UNDP assistance and funding from Switzerland and Austria — were presented and discussed during the working sessions.
“Creating a favourable environment for investments is one of the key factors for rebuilding local economies after the pandemic,” noted Anna Chernyshova. “We hope that the new municipal investment profiles will be a useful tool for municipalities to attract potential investors.”
In its investment profile, Chokhatauri lists a variety of tourism resorts, its proximity to the Poti and Batumi ports and the Batumi and Kutaisi international airports, fertile land and human resources. Lanchkhuti’s profile described its access to the Black Sea and Supsa oil hub alongside natural resources that include the exquisite National Park of Colchis and its potential for tourism development. Ozurgeti sought to attract investors with its proximity to the seaside and mountainous recreational and medical resorts, its well-maintained infrastructure and the opportunity to locally train a qualified workforce for a specific enterprise.
Despite these advantages, though, unemployment in Guria hovers at 16%. Further, the region remains one of the least visited places in Georgia — it attracts only 1.3% of all international visitors.
“The Government of Georgia recognizes that strengthening partnerships between the public and private sectors is a cornerstone of local economies’ inclusive growth,” said Mzia Giorgobiani. “Together with development partners, we are determined to foster more of such partnerships and bring more investment to the local level, where new jobs and incomes are most needed.”
Dr. Danielle Meuwly, Regional Director of the Swiss Cooperation Office for the South Caucasus, stressed the importance of joint efforts towards local development. “Inclusive growth is not possible without the active and broad engagement of all actors at the local level, including local self-government, local businesses, civil society organizations and communities. At the same time, unique local features can be used to attract potential investors to start new economic activities or to expand existing ones,” she noted.
The next two regional events — a forum on tourism and entrepreneurship in Samegrelo and a forum on investment and entrepreneurship in Kvemo Kartli — are planned for June.
“Austria remains a committed supporter of Georgia’s efforts in addressing the emerging challenges of economic recovery in the regions,” stated Alexander Karner. “We truly believe that strengthening local value chains can improve the livelihood of people living in rural areas and can help develop sustainable local economies.”
The investment forum in Ozurgeti was organized in partnership with the State Representative of the Guria region.
Long-term assistance to Georgia’s regions and municipalities comes from UNDP’s robust programme for regional and local development funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) and the Government of Georgia.