East Expo 2021 Opening Statement by Dafina Gercheva, Resident Representative, UNDP in Ukraine, 13 October 2021

October 13, 2021

Dear participants, business owners, partnres and colleagues,

It’s my great pleasure to be here today to welcome you to the opening of East Expo 2021, an annual gathering and showcase for micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses from across eastern and southern Ukraine.

Companies like the ones you see here at East Expo and others across this vast country, are the backbone of Ukraine’s economic development. MSMEs account for the majority of businesses in Ukraine, and worldwide. They are important contributors to job creation and sustainable livelihoods. At least 90 percent of businesses across the globe are MSMEs, which are providing jobs for more than half of the global workforce.

Over the next two days you can visit more than 70 enterprises from Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts. Their owners and representatives will be on hand to answer questions, introduce you to their products and services, and sign contracts if there is a fit.  As you will see at their exhibition stands, despite all the economic hardships caused by the ongoing conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other factors, these businesses have proven to be resilient, determined and innovative. They continue to operate, grow and expand in response to market demand.

Some of the many businesses you can visit here today include crafted ceramic masters from Donetsk oblast, producers of delicious food from Kherson oblast, manufacturers of beautiful clothing from Luhansk oblast, and manufacturers of sophisticated engineering equipment from Zaporizhzhia.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. I want to encourage you to visit as many of these enterprises as possible. You won’t be disappointed.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which is a multi-faceted emergency affected economies, exposed inequalities and stalled progress in many sectors. While the entire economy of Ukraine has suffered, Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts have been particularly impacted – mainly due to pre-existing challenges in those regions, which were excacerbated by COVID crisis.

East Expo is one of the instruments in our portfolio of support to recover from the pandemic and boost local economic development. The results have been impressive, with companies establishing new business links, connections and partnerships with businesses from across the region, the European Union, Canada, India, the Middle East, and others.

While promoting business opportunities, job creation and local economic development, this exhibition has the broader aim of supporting the next generation of Ukrainian leaders in both the public and private sectors. That is why today we have more than 50 young people, students of universities from eastern Ukraine and from Kyiv taking part in this event as volunteers, gaining new knowledge, practical skills and inspiration that will be useful in their lives.  I would like to thank them all, collectively and individually, for helping us make this event a success.

In closing, I also would like to thank the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts state administrations, and the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for partnering with us to organize this event.  I also would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the European Union and the Governmentof the United States of America for their generous financial support.

I wish all participants in the Expo great success in all your endeavours here, be it finding new partners, clients, contracts, or the chance to grow and expand into new business niches and find new opportunities.

Dyakuyu za uvahu – Thank you for your attention.