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Interview with ArmInfo Zdravko's Sami, Team Leader Component, Value Chains and Competitiveness at the EDMC program
by Samvel Sarksyan
Enterprise Development and Market Competitiveness (EDMC) project of USAID Armenia was launched in Armenia in February 2012. A US$17.5 million five-year financing of the project (July 2011-July 2016) was approved. EDMC/USAID replaced Competitive Armenian Private Sector in Armenia (USAID/CAPS). Around 500 local enterprises became beneficiaries of the CAPS project with the budget of US$14 million and completed in Feb 201. Zdravko Sami, Team Leader Component, Value Chains and Competitiveness at the EDMC program, dwells upon the project in an interview with ArmInfo.
What sectors do you assist?
The program actually started in late 2011 and the first steps were aimed to select the key value chains or sectors to finance. The selected enterprises are already receiving assistance.
The financial assistance will be provided to the companies engaged in high technologies, agricultural processing, tourism, pharmaceutics and biotechnologies.
In particular, local high tech companies will be provided an opportunity to participate in HONNOVER MESSE (June 12-15), one of the largest high tech exhibitions in the world. In addition, we will contribute to the DigiTec Business Forum 2012 "Smart Country-Digital Solutions for Innovative Economy” scheduled for June 15-16. Afterwards, Armenian companies with the support of EDMC will participate in the Conference “Regional Initiative of Competitive Ability” in Tbilisi.
We contribute to DigiTec Business 2012 to support also the enterprises engaged in other sectors. The forum will become a good opportunity for raising awareness of high technologies, establishing contacts with relevant companies. It will allow heads of the enterprises engaged in other sectors to learn how to apply high technology products and services in their business.
I’d like to say that EDMC has launched cooperation also with some universities in the given sector and is going to draft new educational programs, organize training courses for teachers. The first such training is expected at the Mobile Technologies Center in Gyumri.
What periods of time the programs are designed for?
The programs are approved for every fiscal year that starts on July 1 in the USA. There is yet 4.5 years left for completion of EDMC. The key dimensions the project will be implemented in have already been approved.
What are the guidelines for assistance in other sectors?
In the pharmaceutical sector EDMC will help introducing GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) standards. It is a precondition to development of the sector. The country could hardly ever export its production if it does not meet GMP.
In the agricultural processing sector the project will help Armenian enterprises bring their produce in line with international security standards, in particular, HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points)and ecological safety standards. It is a precondition to export of food products from Armenia.
Out actions in the biotechnology sector have not been defined finally. Our first goal here is introduction of GMP standards.
As for the tourism sector, we are going to improve the quality of services, hospitality, and raise awareness of Armenia’s tourism potential in abroad. It requires development of information resources telling about the architectural heritage of Armenia and the country’s value as a country of tourism.
Production of local IT-companies may be quite necessary for development of tourism. For instance, EDMC plans to contribute to creation of mobile applications for GPS cards to help tourist find the shortest way to monuments in Armenia.
Are local companies and business associations actively involved in implementation of EDMC project?
EDMC has established very good ties with business associations in the sectors we cover. The major goal of the project is to support the private sector enterprises and business associations equally represent and protect the interests of all their members.
What factors currently hinder creation of value chains in Armenia?
I think that it is necessary to increase export opportunities of the local enterprises and create export-oriented jobs. There is enough potential for that.
I’d like to outline some obstacles. For instance, Armenian companies have no relevant marketing skills and instruments. Education system does not cooperate with the real sector and students cannot find jobs immediately after graduation. There is lack of information infrastructure that would tell about the opportunities and possibilities of the local companies and the orders they could fulfill.
The sector of tourism needs road and information infrastructure. To reach any monument outside Yerevan tourists often have to pass poor roads without any markings guiding to the necessary monuments. However, this gap cannot be filled by EDMC only.
Please, tell more about EDMC’s plans of cooperation with Armenian higher educational establishments?
EDMC will support drafting of new educational programs and training of the teaching staffs.
Local teachers may be involved in the process and we will try to replenish the accumulated knowledge with practical experience.