Interview to President Mrs Manuela Traldi
by Ivan De Stefano
When was Itazercom founded and what are its specific objectives?
Itazercom, the Italo-Azerbaijani Trade Institute, was formed in 2012 with the support of our law firm under the initiative of the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Italy for the purpose of creating a bridge between business enterprises in the two countries and eventually a bilatera l chamber of commerce. We recognized the need for an organization that could support the expected increase in trade in consideration of the growing interest in the Azerbaijani market among the Italian enterprises and of the increased diplomatic and political relations between Italy and Azerbaijan. This was of course in anticipation of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline project, which we have supported from the beginning as an exceptional collaborative opportunity for Italy. We work together with both Italian and Azerbaijani institutions in order to facilitate their communication and enhance contact. Yet our main focus in the two countries is the business sector, and our primary objective is to expedite and generate business for our partners and associates, which will lead to an increase in economic activity and improvement in relations between Italy and Azerbaijan.
What opportunities are there today for Italian investment in Azerbaijan, and what areas have more consideration?
Azerbaijan is certainly a country that has experienced a period of extraordinary growth, and the country’s most productive industry is the hydrocarbons sector. However, looking toward the future, Azerbaijan has developed and invested in numerous other sectors. Azerbaijan has prioritized diversification since before the current oil crisis and has created an excellent environment for Italian investment opportunities while also providing outlets for the exchange of advanced technological information and business savvy through incentives provided by the Azerbaijani government. We are currently overseeing a number of projects involving Italian companies working with public and private Azerbaijani institutions, mostly in the industrial and agricultural sectors. These ventures are aimed not only toward the internal market, but also toward Russia, Iran, Turkey, and other countries in the Caucasus region. We also entered a collaborative agreement in 2014 with SIMEST in order to support Italian companies in such processes.
The areas that I consider to be of greatest interest are agriculture, agro-industry, chemical industry, construction materials, logistics, and ICT.
In the current economic and industrial climate, how is Italy perceived by Azerbaijan in terms of short and long term investment?
Azerbaijani financial institutions and private groups are actually expanding their international interests and investments, and Italy is a focal point. The Italian government is engaging in relations with Azerbaijan to attract investment in our Country, and our organization is helping the investors find projects that are most suitable for them, which tend to be in real estate but are increasingly in manufacturing and services. In addition to financial and commercial opportunities, I believe that choosing to invest in Italy may also be influenced by a special appreciation for our culture and the sincere bond that links us with the Azerbaijani people.
Can you expound upon your function in the organization and development of business missions in Azerbaijan?
We have a very pragmatic approach for organizing
domestic and overseas trade missions, often on request by public and private institutions. Namely, what is important to us is to be able to establish strong and mutually beneficial relationships. Our selection of participants, from suppliers to potential buyers, is therefore very scrupulous. Another aspect that we consider carefully is the preliminary assessment of the sector of interest. This is important to better focus the goals of the meeting and to prevent inaccurate or unrealistic expectations. Naturally, companies who may see the best results are those which have developed with us a wider strategy to enter the market, including the B2b event as a first and fundamental step but not as the only element in this process.
Can you explain the main goals of the meetings that Itazercom holds?
We frequently hold meetings, in conjunction with the Embassy of Azerbaijan and other institutions, that are open to entrepreneurs and serve as informational events to acquaint them with the current affairs of Azerbaijan and to establish initial contact with high-level spokespeople. The last forum we hosted was in collaboration with the Azerbaijani Export and Investment Promotion Foundation AZPROMO and took place on August 25th at the beautiful Azerbaijan Pavilion at the Milan EXPO, and it was a great success.
During the year, we also organize seminars and discussions throughout Italy, usually upon request or in collaboration with other chambers of commerce or business associations. We also hold our own training sessions geared toward activity in specific industrial or economic sectors. These activities generally have an educational purpose, but if Azerbaijani guests are present, we like to make the most of our opportunity for direct exchange.
How would associating with Itazercom and expanding into the Azerbaijani market benefit an Italian company?
Primarily, the business owner would have privileged access to information regarding what Azerbaijan might offer to his or her company through our established network of contacts. Itazercom has a thorough knowledge of the country from its years of experience and can help the company minimize potential risks and maximize the use of time and other resources.
All events in Azerbaijan and Italy are aimed at commercial enterprise, but we also highly encourage networking and making new contacts in order to promote our associates.
Another benefit may be increased brand visibility.
Overall, Itazercom is a dedicated institution which a company can make use of in different ways depending on the needs of its involvement, characteristics of the company, and its interest in the country.
What innovations, such as solar power and other renewable energy sources, are Azerbaijan aiming
towards in terms of protecting the environment and remaining globally competitive?
Azerbaijan is certainly geared toward the future and sustainability, and has been investing a significant amount of resources in new technology and innovation. With the help of the State Fund for ICT, a High Tech Park for innovative start-ups has been created and is managed by the Ministry of Communications and High Technologies. The Ministry holds a yearly conference and fair called BAKUTEL (December 2-5, 2015) which attracts major worldwide institutions and high-tech companies from ICT, security, aerospace and nuclear engineering, and biotechnology.
The focus on innovation naturally includes the field of alternative energy. The government agency, ABEMDA, is currently overseeing projects involving solar energy, geothermal energy, and hydro-electricity.
There are certainly opportunities for Italo-Azerbaijani cooperation in the field of environmental protection. To address this concern, the Italian Minister for the Environment, Mr. Galletti is making an official visit to Baku in November, with the possibility of Italian companies to participate in a business forum with Azerbaijani business representatives.
To conclude, what is EXPO 2015 bringing to Azerbaijan in terms of public relations and its touristic /cultural profile?
I must say that the success of the EXPO exceeded my most optimistic expectations, both as an event for Italy in general, and as an opportunity for Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijan Pavillion has received a great amount of positive feedback and has been home to many different themed events including a number of official delegations from Baku.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been made aware of Azerbaijan and its rich historical and cultural beauty. They will share this information, and growth will occur exponentially and certainly generate interest in the country which was previously little known.
Azerbaijan and its Ministry of Culture and Tourism are preparing for this increased tourist demand. They have pledged to enhance accessibility by facilitating agreements between tour operators and through initiatives planned for the coming months.