Interviews

Interviews

Interview with Mr. Diego Pisa, CEO at Teleperformance Italy Group and Albania

October 19, 2022
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“Trying to improve the quality of the life in all the sectors is our due for the future of Albania”

FIAA: Teleperformance Group enjoys a long and successful history in the industry of Outsourcing and Offshoring Consulting, with global presence around the world and in Albania. In our country, Teleperformance is present since 2008, clearly high standing with Teleperformance Group´s world-class standards and tools.  Could you tell more about your group’s experience in Albania?

Mr. Pisa: If we wanted to summarize in one word the experience that Teleperformance Group in Albania has had in Albania, I would say: outstanding.

Teleperformance is the largest and more successful Group in the world in the CRM/BPO sector, we are present in 82 countries with approximately 500,000 employees worldwide.

We started in Albania the first pilot projects in 2007 and then in 2008 I personally opened our legal entity and the first office and today, at the age of 15, we are more than 3,500 employees, the largest employer in the country and the largest tax payer. If I look back, I can say that I am proud of what has been done so far in Albania. I have always believed that here we had all the conditions for creating a solid reality in this community and the numbers to date have proved me right. I would say a great business case.

We have created an industry that did not exist before us, and above all, we have defined the benchmark in terms of employee management, office quality, internal procedures, salaries, quality of delivery and any serious company in the sector that wants to enter the country must measure itself with these standards to be competitive.

Albania is often considered abroad only for the availability of low-cost jobs. Nothing is wrong in my opinion anymore. Our experience is diametrically opposite. We have invested in training, quality, wages above the market average, and this has given us the opportunity to attract International Clients who are known everywhere in the world for the quality of the products and services they provide, demonstrating the fact that in Albania you can work with high quality standards if you invest adequately in personnel.

How is the company performing? Are there any plans for further extensions?

The results are positive, both in financial and quality of the service we provide to our Clients. The company has grown steadily every year since it exists in Albania, with a strategy oriented towards sustainable and organic growth and we estimate that this trend will continue in the coming years, obviously considering the limit constituted by the fact that young Albanians speak less and less Italian language and more English which, however, is a language available at low cost in other regions of the world.

Would you share with us what you consider key advantages for success in Albania and some drawbacks that might be still improved for a better operating digital market and technological progress?

What has always impressed me in Albania is the ability of young people to adapt to both the language and culture of countries we serve, even if they may never have seen in person yet those countries. Our services are mainly Customer Care, and this places people in the daily management of problems that have occurred in the management of purchases of products or services in some part of the world far from Albania. If I talked about the ability to empathize with such different cultures you would not believe it, and it is the reason why all our customers love us. Imagine also when you are managing some outsourced process for big companies: they are in contact with employees based in other countries and they are able to deal without any cultural or language issue.

Level of education, work flexibility and ambition are certainly to me the strengths of the Albanian people, that is a key in my case as we are a people company.

What needs improvement is certainly the fact that this industry, which employs thousands of workers, is not yet recognized as such: the creation of a national sector labor contract, for example, could lead to greater flexibility for employers or at least to fit better the needs. To have a typical category contracts could also regulate the employment as there are still many companies that operate in a not completely legal manner to the detriment of employees.

What are your impressions of the current business operating environment in Albania? What challenges are you facing?

My industry is facing the worst period ever in terms of easiness to recruit, which by the way is happening almost everywhere in the world but for different reasons than in Albania.

We have been observing for months now an exodus abroad of young people who emigrate to seek conditions that they do not recognize as possible in Albania. This is really a shame for the country because it is depleted of talent and is a deterrent for large groups to invest in the country.

The issue is obviously very complicated and concerns both politics and entrepreneurs, but it should be strongly taken into consideration also because it is not true that these young people find abroad what they did not have in Albania, at least not always. To try to improve the quality of the life in all the sectors is our due for the future of the country.

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Interview with Mr. Roberto Laera, Chairman of Italian Network

August 22, 2022
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FIAA: The Italian Network company is called “a 360-degree consulting Firm” and it is present in the Albanian market for a long time. Could you tell us a bit more about the services of your company and your experience in Albania?

Mr. Laera: Italian Network is a consulting firm for internationalization, tax and labor consultancy, HR Management, which since 2006 has been promoting and offering a 360-degree service to foreign entrepreneurs who want to invest in Albania.

It is a bridge between the Balkans and Europe, having offices in Tirana in Albania and Bari in Italy.

We provide all the advice in the constitution of the company, in Albanian and international taxation, labor law, payroll, etc. necessary for the entrepreneur to evaluate the future investment and make it operational in a very short time.

We also provide for the research, selection and training of personnel with the company “Job in Albania”.

Part of our services is search for the best property for your office, your business or your stay in Albania through the other company of the group: “Albania Immobiliare”.

In partnership with “Albania Investimenti”, we provide advice on the establishment of Trusts and Trust Companies.

Italian Network provides all the necessary advice to foreign entrepreneurs to set up a business in Albania by promoting partnerships with local businesses and investments in the Land of Eagles.

Italian Network also specializes in obtaining residence permits for entrepreneurs, retirees, digital nomads and all other categories who are entitled to it.

We also provide for the tax exemption of the pension and the obtaining of the tax residence certificate for all Italian citizens, and facilitate the start-up of a company, allowing it to be operational in just 24 hours.

I am proud to announce that thanks to the values that distinguish us and the professional work carried out over these 16 years, this year we reached the Worldwide Financial Award as “International Consulting Firm of the Year 2022”, while last year we also reached the final of the prize as the best internationalization company of the “Le Fonti Award”.
I dedicate this result to all my collaborators and customers who work every day and confirm their trust in our services.

 

 

 

 

How do you find the interest of the Italian companies in Albania? Are there any specific industries and sectors which you find more attractive for growth?

Before starting to illustrate the investment opportunities in Albania and the Balkans, I would like to dispel some myths.

In Albania there is no petty crime, robbery, theft and extortion.

We see this in the data published by Numbeo on the Crime Index 2018, for which in the top ten places in Europe for crime, we find four Italian cities such as Naples, Catania, Turin and Rome, but also Norwegian cities, Paris, Marseille and Birmingham.

Tirana is only in 54th place.

In recent years, the GDP average is over 5% and 2020 stood at 4.1%.

The World Bank has forecasted GDP holding at 4% for the next 4 years.

With the growth of the GDP, there has been a constant and considerable growth in the volume of imports of goods and services, which has seen Italy as the first trading partner of Albania, as well as being the first country for investments, thanks to over 5000 companies with Italian capital present in the land of eagles.

Why invest in Albania?

  1. Great opening towards the European and global market

– Strategically positioned for access to markets in Europe and the Balkan region

– Located in the center of the natural crossroads of major corridors in Europe

– Entrance gate with 4 doors, Durres, Valona, Shengjin, Saranda

  1. Free Market

– The Albanian economy is now characterized by fully liberalized trade

– The most elastic of the economies of South-Eastern Europe, the only economy that has not gone through a period of recession

  1. Favorable environment, conditions and costs

– Tax benefits and incentives in strategic investment sectors

– Online system for tax filing and payments

– The Albanian business legal framework is in compliance with EU legislation

  1. One “Stop Shop” model

– Speed & transparency – granting of commercial licenses, from the National Licensing Center

– Registration of new business in 24 hours

  1. A variety of investment choices

– Rewards investment opportunities with public – private partnerships

– Rewards investment opportunities in areas with stability and sustainable growth sectors: * Renewable energy * Mining * Tourism * Agri-food * Transport and Logistics * Production * ICT services

  1. Legal Support

– No prior government authorization is required and all sectors are open to foreign investors

– No limitations or restrictions for foreign companies

– No limitation on the percentage of foreign participation in companies (even 100% foreign is possible)

– Special state protection for foreign investors; even in the case of a legal – civil conflict with third parties, including private ones

Foreign investors have the right to expatriate all funds and contributions in kind of their Investment

  1. Skilled and highly creative workforce

– Knowledge of foreign languages

(English, Italian and Greek are widely spoken. French and German are included in the education system)

– 57% of the population is under 35 years old:

– More than 1,071,948 young, educated and motivated professionals

– About 116,292 students register annually at the university

  1. Low labor costs

– The lowest minimum wage in Europe (250 euros)

  1. FAVORABLE TAX SYSTEM

– Corporate tax rate from 0 to 15%

– Personal rate from 0 to 23%

– Favorable tax regime for strategic sectors

– Treaties to avoid double taxation in over 30 countries

– Albanian tax system non-discriminatory towards foreign investors and no distinction is made between foreign and national investors

  1. RAPID DEVELOPMENT of INFRASTRUCTURE

– New and fast improvement of infrastructures in the transport, telecommunications and energy sectors

– Well developed and low-cost shipping services

– Quick and easy transport routes and direct delivery mechanisms to most EU countries

  1. RECOMMENDED TOURIST DESTINATION

– 2014 – from the New York Times; Albania is listed fourth out of 52 countries to visit.

– 2012 – Frommer tour guide; Albania is one of the important destinations.

– 2011 – Lonely Planet; The first of the 10 best places to visit

What are your impressions of the current business operating environment in Albania? What challenges are you facing?

To tell the truth, we are experiencing several problems with the e-albania system, especially in the registration of new companies and branches.

These operations that previously took a maximum of 72 hours have now extended to 20 days.

I hope these problems will be solved in a short time, because this is a burden of work and costs for us and a useless waste of time for the customer.

What do you consider as the biggest future challenges in Albania?

I hope that from the Government’s side, there will be strategies for attracting foreign strategic productive investments and a clear and sustainable fiscal policy. Unfortunately, the frequent change in tax legislation creates confusion for investors and for the consultants too, who are unable to plan strategies for attracting investors in the country.

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Mr. Alessandro D’Oria, President of FIAA and CEO at Intesa Sanpaolo Bank Albania

July 7, 2022
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FIAA: You have been recently elected as President of the Foreign Investors Association of Albania, what is your perspective on the Leadership model and experience that you will share with Foreign Investors Community in Albania?

Mr. D’Oria: First of all I would like to express again my gratitude to all the members who voted me as President of FIAA.

FIAA’s mission is to support the success of its members by promoting a healthy business environment in the country, and to provide high-quality business information and resources. This is a challenging mission in a fast-developing country in terms of legislation and infrastructure and I am happy and excited to have taken up such an important role in the structure of FIAA.

In September it will be a year since I was appointed as CEO of Intesa Sanpaolo Bank Albania, whereas other members have been in Albania for longer time periods. In addition, I have a very long (you can say life-time) experience in the Banking Industry, but in FIAA there are many other sectors. For the above reasons, I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by the knowledge and the expertise of the fellow members not only in the local market but also in their own industries, which have a plethora of characteristics and bear non-similar challenges.

The beginning of this journey will therefore provide me with enormous opportunities to conduct research, observe and learn, since I consider myself on the on-boarding phase. The positive outcome is that usually in this phase of “the outsider” you don’t consider that doing business can be done only in the way “as it has always been”, but you are open to change and consider other possibilities.

Last, but not of lesser relevance of importance, I do believe in respect and integrity. I don’t believe in handing out solutions or recipes of success. In my opinion, it is not possible to simply copy paste previous successful experience in other countries and context to achieve the same results. But, we can use some of these experiences creating the proper mix contextualizing them with the needs of the market that we operate in, so that we can be the leading international business association in Albania.

What do you consider as the biggest challenges in Doing Business in Albania and how do you see the role of FIAA towards guaranteeing a sustainable growth of business in the country?

Albania is ranked 82 among 190 economies in the “ease of doing business index”, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings. Therefore, I believe that improvements are needed in the regulatory environment to further enhance business operation, including stronger protection of the rule of law and property rights. Albania has been working hard to move higher in this index, especially with the justice reform taking place in the last years, for which FIAA has been a full supporter. However, it is very vital to make more visibility and coherence to promote these improvements outside of the country to potential investors.

In your position as CEO of Intesa Sanpaolo Bank Albania, what are the challenges that your sector is facing in the operating environment and in the current global crisis?

The banking system has faced multiple crisis in the last 20 years so they have had the opportunity to proactively build strong capacities to overcome current and future crisis. The regulators are accelerating into the capacity to manage the risk and create a sustainable environment.

But crisis aside, it’s clear that the customer habits and the digitalization will bring the need to improve the service models and define the right combination of technologies and human interaction. I still believe that even with the introduction of the new typology of virtual or automated branches, the personal relationship remains central but must have updated skills.

How do you foresee the development of the Albanian economy in the coming years?

I remain optimist on the development of the Albanian Economy, the speed and the strength will depend on strategies which will be taken.

The Albanian economy is mainly focused on trade and other services activity. Enterprises registered during 2021 in trade activity are 29.9% of total registered enterprises. Trade activity realizes the biggest annual turnover in the economy, with 39.6%. In Albania, agriculture is the most important contributor to the economy with almost 20% of the total. Also, trade, transport, accommodation and food services activities with a weight in structure by 16.17 % , followed by public administration, education, human health that also has a big impact with 12.29 % in the total economy.

I foresee further expansion in the energy and infrastructure sectors with important projects being launched lately, in addition, agriculture and tourism (even the combination agro-tourism) that can be further developed with the support of EU loan instruments and local banks cooperation and surely construction/real estate.

However, the most important development must be in the Human Capital. Thus, the education system shall be more connected with the economy, to attract and keep the youngsters in Albania, with the right salary and matching their academic background and efforts.

In addition, the businesses in the country must increase the level of investments in technology to attract the capital intensive industries.

This combination (the development of the human capital and increased technological investments) will allow a sustainable growth in a Country with excellent chances for the future.

 

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Mr. Enrico Donati – Executive Chairman at Assist Digital

June 16, 2022
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FIAA: Assist Digital achieved its 5th anniversary in the Albanian market. Could you tell us a bit more about the business of your company and its experience in Albania?

Mr. Donati: First of all, we are very happy to have been working in Albania and we are still following a growth path of our business in this country. We like the country and we like the people we are working with. Assist Digital is providing Customer Experience services to global companies at a pan-European level. This means that we provide a wide range of services related to the relationship between brands and their customers. We provide consulting services, CRM and marketing automating services, UX/UI design services, as well as multilingual customer operation services. Since the beginning of our story, we have been leveraging a lot on digital technologies and ICT technologies blending Artificial Intelligence with Human Intelligence, with the aim to fully satisfy the end users and at the same time our clients. This strategy has been very successful so far giving our company the opportunity to engage with very important clients.

In the last decade the industry of Business Process Outsourcing has developed substantially in Albania. How do you find the labor market here and the existing legal and fiscal framework the country offers for this industry?

As I mentioned in the introduction, we like very much the country and the people of Albania. However, the market has become quite busy during the last few years. Many companies of our industry have selected Albania as a destination to develop their business. Thus, the market has become very competitive and attracting the best talents is every year more difficult. As Assist Digital we are not only looking for multilingual contact center agents, but we are strongly committed to develop an important team of digital and tech experts i.e designers, software engineers, marketing automation experts, and so on.  From this point of view, the capability of the education system to prepare certain kind of profiles is very important and we would be very happy to strengthen the collaboration with local Universities to support their important effort in developing such skills. From the legal and fiscal point of view, considering also the international agreements, both with Italy and Europe, we consider Albania a friendly business environment.

The Pandemic transformed the last two years completely. How did the company cope with “The Smart Working Mode”?

When the pandemic started, we have been one of the first companies to provide the technical and procedural infrastructure to allow our people working remotely. The so-called Smart Working Mode has been very successful so far, both for our people and for the company.  This positive experience will last for the future and we are now working also with our clients to transform this occasional working model in a long-lasting model. Of course, there are also important reasons to meet people periodically at our premises, both for business and organizational needs and also for developing and sharing knowledge through interpersonal relationship. Joining Assist Digital people will find a very open environment where Smart Working will be strongly supported, as well as an inclusive and innovative mindset.

How is the company performing? Are there any plans for further expansion?

At group level, Assist Digital is growing rapidly and continuously since its inception. In 2021 we have increased our revenues by 40% and this year we are targeting another 30% growth. With reference to our investments in Albania, we have already opened two operation centers and we are now working to set up a new fantastic operation center based in the new Business Center “The Urban Limit”. In addition, with the offer of the smart working opportunity, we aim to attract the best talents both in the BPO segment, and in the consulting and technology business.

What are your impressions of the current business operating environment in Albania? What challenges are you facing?

As I said before, the most relevant challenge we are facing today is to attract and retain talents. The market labor mobility is actually very high and Assist Digital will continue to offer the best place to work and the opportunity to collaborate with a very international and high skilled team, including the opportunity to spend some time abroad working in different countries and with great people.  

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Mr. Emil Georgakiev – CEO of ONE TELECOMMUNICATIONS sh.a

February 8, 2022
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20+ years’ milestone in FIAA 

FIAA: ONE Telecommunications is the first mobile telecommunications company in the country launched with the brand AMC, present in Albanian market since 1996. How would you describe the consistent growth and sustainability of your business in Albania as our country has been growing into a more mature market economy?

Mr. Georkaviev: ONE Telecommunications is an operator with 26 years of experience and glorious history. We are the operator who launched the first mobile network in the country, opening widely the door to technology world for Albanians. Of course, since 1996 the market requirements have changed a lot. To adapt with these changes and respond to customer demands we kept our network and services aligned with every new technology trend and innovation with one simple goal, to provide the best quality for our customers and lead the telecom industry in the country. All these years, the company was developing and transforming aiming to respond and satisfy the best on customer’s needs. We tried to predict and offer them what they expect: convenient products, excellent customer service and a trustworthy network. Our promise to them is that we will be better every day and that promise is what drives our daily work. Our growth in the last 3 years is well known and can be seen by anyone. But it didn’t happen by chance, it is a result of a very straightforward strategy and very hard work of the whole One Telecommunications team to implement it. We know that the market “rewards” those who are better than the competitors, that why we work very hard every day to be better.

This company has been Member of FIAA since our early months, first through the AMC (COSMOTE) and after through TELEKOM Albania and continues so through ONE Telecommunications. How do you see this journey/experience with us? 

We are members of Foreign Investors Association in Albania for 20 years. All these years we have been in many discussions and initiatives together. We see FIAA as a reliable partner, as the face and the voice in front of the authorities when it comes to business climate in the country, compliancy with EU and world best practices, legal environment and regulation and many other business and regulation areas. Being part of this Association is giving opportunity to share opinions and have discussions with other business on the topics of public interest.

What do you consider as the biggest future challenges in Albania and how do you see the role of FIAA towards guaranteeing a sustainable growth of your business in the country?

Being a foreign investor in a very strategic industry as telco is, it’s a challenge by itself. The telecommunications market in Albania is highly competitive and is very difficult to sustain a healthy margin to keep up with all innovations and trends. Albania has a small population and severe competition among operators doesn’t bring necessarily benefits to customers. Sometimes is even the opposite because the operators compromise on the quality of service in exchange of a low price. To understand better the customer needs, their behavior, and economical drivers in order to make a good balance between the quality and the price of the service will be a challenge. A different angle on the service cost and competitive environment and regulation, might help.

Another challenge is related to technological progress that it will be unavoidable in the coming years. Although 5G network is not a reality yet, operators like us need to prepare in order to be ready to offer the future technology to our customers. A proper roll out of 5G will require changes in the existing regulatory frame and FIAA can be of help in the discussions with the institutions.

At the end I believe that associations like FIAA are and will remain an important stakeholder in the process of favorable business environment development in Albania. FIAA support in the relations with Governmental Institutions, is crucial and highly appreciated.

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Mr. Luca Busi – President of Coca-Cola Bottling Shqipëria

February 3, 2022
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20+ years’ milestone with FIAA”

FIAA: Coca-Cola Bottling Shqipëria entered the Albanian market in 1994, thus being among the first foreign entrepreneurs to invest in the country. How would you describe the development of your business in Albania since our country is going through a more mature market economy?

Mr. Busi: Based on recent years ‘analytic data, Albania is showing and demonstrating some very interesting growth in numbers. Today, many entrepreneurial realities are expanding more and more their business in the Albanian market. CCBS was a pioneer investor, which officially entered Albania 28 years ago, impacting significantly and positively both, economy and culture.

We decided to invest in Albania during a difficult period, a country with a troubled political history, isolated from international realities and foreign markets’ landscape at that time. When we entered the country, it was just 4 years after the collapse of the totalitarian system, but we envisaged the changing of that realty towards a new Albanian appearance.

An entrepreneurial risk that we wanted to run with prudence, arriving in this country not as foreigners looking to do business, but as strategic partners, ready to support the institutions and the people on a recovery path that would soon take place. We started with 20 employees and today, despite the pandemic, we can guarantee development and employment with 342 employees and a portfolio of iconic brands such as Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite and Schweppes. Just a few months ago we presented a research by the Italian University SDA Bocconi, which calculated the impact of the company on the country’s economy: 3,267 million Lekë, is CCBS’ contribution generated and distributed in 2019, equal to 0.19% of Albanian GDP.

In this direction, Coca-Cola Bottling Shqipëria wants to become an example to be followed from all those companies that want to invest in this splendid country, full of resources, which continues to follow a constant trend of growth, which I am sure, still has a high potential of development. The key word must be “integration” and “cooperation”, only in this way, Albania will we be able to aim for ethical, healthy and responsible development.

Coca-Cola Bottling Shqipëria has been part of FIAA since the very first days of our organization. How would you describe your journey with us?

FIAA is the most important Albanian reality in support of foreign investors. Thanks to the commitments of your association, CCBS has had a real partner at its side to open new gates of cooperation with the government and resolve the bureaucratic and regulatory problems encountered in recent years, especially in the pandemic period, which has dragged many operational difficulties with it. The intervention strategies implemented have in fact allowed our company to continue to be operational during the lockdown and to find solutions thanks to networking abilities. In recent years, FIAA has also created “shared value”, with the aim of strengthening the contribution of businesses in creating a new model of economic development. By affirming the importance of the entrepreneurial system as the engine of the country’s economic, social and civil growth, it has managed to create common and shared paths, respecting the identity and autonomy of each business, developing concrete proposals for reforms on supporting investors’ legislation.

What do you think are the biggest future challenges in Albania and how do you see the role of FIAA in ensuring sustainable growth of your business in the country?

Today, more than ever the Albanian Business Community needs a reference point, which can lead the way acting as a process facilitator and create a better business climate, not only by dialogue with the Public Administration but also with the social partners and civil society, to support economy and finance, culture, research, technological innovation and more. The challenges that drive all our future choices are mainly linked to the ecological transition with green investments that can reverse the course of the past, and the fight against corruption: just think of the improvement of differentiated waste management, the strengthening of infrastructure for the electric vehicles’ mobility (public recharging stations), up to the sanctions for incorrect behavior to combat unfair competition. We need to start a new path of incentives and government support in favor of the development of a circular economy, just as it is necessary to push on the culture of rule of law, to allow healthy businesses to find a proactive context to operate. A common strategic vision is needed to achieve the objectives that could change the face of Albania. And, I am sure that, also in this case, FIAA will not be supportless.

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Avv. Mario Tonucci – Managing Partner of TONUCCI & PARTNERS Albania

January 31, 2022
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“20+ years’ milestone with FIAA”

FIAA: Tonucci & Partners is the first foreign Law Firm in the country, present in Albania since 1995. How would you describe the development and sustainability of your firm in Albania as our country has been growing into a more mature market economy?

Avv. Tonucci: Tonucci & Partners Albania Law Firm has always been recognized as a leading law firm in Albania able to offer very professional and timely services with excellent quality, in compliance with the highest international standards.

With its presence in Albania, Tonucci & Partners has been a direct witness and active contributor to the continuous growth of the economic, social and regulatory development of Albania with significant results, making possible for the country to be closer to the entry into the European Union.

From the beginning, Tonucci & Partners had the role of legal consultant and coordinator for reforms and the adaptation of economic legislation in Albania as part of the liberalization and opening up of the country towards the Western economies. Furthermore, our firm has provided assistance and contribution in the drafting of the most important Albanian laws, such as the 1998 Constitution and the Albanian Customs Code. Also noteworthy is the drafting of the Business Guide for more than 25 consecutive years, appreciated by the entire community of foreign entrepreneurs in Albania.

These experiences, initiated and sustained during the first years of transformation and modernization of the Country, have allowed the Firm to attain a profound knowledge and experience in the local system which, integrated with the experience in the international field, has made us a point of reference for all, but not limited to, foreign entrepreneurs.

Tonucci & Partners Albania today assists both small and medium-sized enterprises at the first steps in their path of international expansion, also large companies, multinationals, financial institutions, banks, organizations and Government agencies that turn to the Firm to receive legal services and consultancy on their activities in Albania or international transactions.

Albania is now an open economic reality with liberalized trade and guarantees equal treatment between foreign and national investors. The clear European Union prospective, the fiscal and legislative reforms in progress as well as the Government’s strategy for the adoption of new technologies and new business models, ensure that the Country has a much wider appeal towards foreign investors.

Tonucci & Partners has been Member of FIAA since the very early months of the foundation of our organization. How would you describe your journey with us? 

Tonucci & Partners Albania is proud to be an active member of FIAA and collaborate in activities and services in favor of foreign companies and entrepreneurs in Albania.

FIAA has represented since its establishment one of the most important associations of foreign investors operating in Albania, therefore it was more than natural for our firm, leader in providing services to foreign businesses and entrepreneurs, to be an active part of it.

As a historical member of FIAA, Tonucci & Partners Albania can testify to the immense and important work carried out over the years by the Association to ensure a good business environment in the Country which is the basis needed for the business growth of its members.

Tonucci & Partners Albania has always tried to be at the forefront by offering its contribution and experience to support the initiatives of FIAA, to achieve common goals for the benefit of all members of the association.

What do you consider as the biggest future challenges in Albania and how do you see the role of FIAA towards guaranteeing a sustainable growth of business in the country?

In order to increase foreign direct investment, the Albanian Government has intensified its efforts to implement a series of fiscal and legislative reforms to improve the so-called “Business climate” in the Country.

However, there is no shortage of challenges. The Albanian fiscal policy is subject to numerous and continuous interventions by the executive. There are still discretion problems of the public authorities. There is a lack of transparency in public tenders, often violating the principle of free competition. Although known, the problem of a corrupt judicial system, it should be highlighted that a justice reform is currently underway which aims to reduce this phenomenon. Another critical aspect concerns real estate property, in particular the uncertainty about the title of ownership making the transfer of the same difficult and uncertain.

In consideration of the above mentioned challenges, FIAA’s role is fundamental for a common action towards Albanian institutions to achieve solutions that can guarantee a much more favorable climate for business growth, to the benefit of all the parties involved.

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Mrs. Katia Stathaki – CEO of Vodafone Albania

December 22, 2021
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“Vodafone Albania has always been a pioneer of introducing new technologies in the country”

FIAA: Finally, we have a female Leader for Vodafone Albania, this is a trend applied also to other industries and to the recent Governments. How is your experience in Albania going so far?

Mrs. Stathaki: Albania is a beautiful country to live in. When I was appointed to this role, I knew little about the country. Half a year later, I could not be happier for my appointment as Vodafone Albania CEO. I have not only found a great team here, but I have discovered also a beautiful country with an amazing spirit and hospitality.

My colleagues in Albania are doing a fantastic work to transform Vodafone from a telecommunication to a technology company, and I am glad that the leadership in this journey was trusted to me.

In this view, I would like to refer to female leadership as a global milestone. Females have fought for equal rights for centuries and arriving here, is not a matter of coincidence or a trend, it is a sign of a maturing society that is acknowledging the equal role of us females in leadership and management. And not only that, it acknowledges the different angle that female leadership brings to the table. In Albania, I might say, the high number of females in leadership roles has caught my attention; often it is even higher than some of the other European countries. I am also very lucky to be working for a company which acknowledges and promotes female leadership. Vodafone highly promotes females in leadership positions, this combined with their professional skills and experience can make for a great team building and results. At Vodafone we encourage participation, innovative ideas, diversity and inclusion. Being the CEO of Vodafone Albania is for me a personal and professional achievement, yet an enormous responsibility towards the company, my colleagues, our customers and the society at large where we operate and contribute. Being the very first female CEO of Vodafone in Albania motivates me even more and gives me courage to do better each day.

How is Vodafone performing in Albania? Any new project for our market?

What are your plans for investment in Albania the next 2-3 years?

We will hopefully soon be entering the post pandemic era; the pandemic taught us a new reality and gave us a different perspective on things; it has helped us form a new vision and that vision is strongly connected with technology and digitization, a vision that will put Vodafone Albania in the forefront of this digital transformation. For us at Vodafone it has become apparent since many years ago that digital and the use of technology for the welfare of our society is of huge importance. The pandemic has accelerated what was expected. I would like to stress out at this point that Vodafone Albania has always been a pioneer of introducing new technologies in the country. We were the first in the Albanian market to introduce 3G, 4G and will introduce 5G technology, following the footsteps of the Vodafone Group 5G investments all over Europe. Though we see the introduction of the new technologies not as a goal in itself but as a tool to the benefit of the society and always following the moto that “nobody should be left behind”.

Today we have moved to a fully converged company, and our aim is to invest over 100 million euros in fixed broadband infrastructure, and to bring that to the same high standards as we have brought the mobile network in the country.

We are all aware that the telecommunication sector is vital part of our society; connectivity is a service with almost the same importance as water and electricity. The pandemic made it even more visible to society, to consumers and businesses that we need a network infrastructure, that is inclusive and available in the same way in urban and rural areas of the country, in schools, universities, businesses, hospitals, everywhere. We see the introduction of the new technologies not as a goal in itself but as a tool to bring real benefits to the society and always following the moto that “nobody should be left behind”.

In the next decade we will answer that need!

The next decade will see a major societal change, enabling inclusiveness, strengthening digital education, e-health, e-agriculture, transport and all sectors of our economy, transforming our networks and operations fully green, empowering women, transforming a society to be better, more efficient and sustainable for the generations to come.

Vodafone has been a Member of FIAA for 20 years now. To you personally, what is the significance of this long journey of Vodafone within the Biggest Foreign Investors Network in Albania?

Vodafone has partnered with FIAA since its beginning. We have walked together for almost 20 years, a journey that has been fruitful.

Like FIAA’s mission, Vodafone is always working to offer the best solutions for businesses, making their life easier and their activity more profitable. FIAA provides advocacy, we provide technology solutions.

But our journey has passed borders. FIAA and Vodafone together have achieved to raise awareness about important topics related to business and the social environment that surrounds us. As the largest foreign investor in the country, we have both made our part to promote Albania and invited more foreign businesses to invest in a sustainable manner in this fantastic country with high natural and human potentials.

Finally, as we come near the year finish line, I would like to take the occasion to wish you and all Albanians good health, joy and prosperity in their families for the new year to come!

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Mrs. Albana Shkurta – Managing Director of Lufthansa Industry Solutions Shpk

June 29, 2021
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“Tirana has been developing quickly into a digital hub in the Balkans”

FIAA: Lufthansa Industry Solutions is a leading IT company in the Albanian market. Could you tell us about this company’s business worldwide and the decision to enter the Albanian market?

Mrs. Shkurta: Lufthansa Industry Solutions is a service provider for IT consulting and system integration. As a subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa Group, Lufthansa Industry Solutions supports its clients’ digital transformation. Its customer base includes companies both within and outside the Lufthansa Group, more than 200 companies in various lines of business. The company is based in Norderstedt, Germany and employs more than 2,100 members of staff at several branches in Germany, Switzerland, the USA and since April 2019 in Tirana, Albania.

The decision to enter the Albanian market was made after carefully examining various models of cooperation with AMD, a specifically established German Albanian start up. AMD was founded on March 2017 and from the very beginning was providing IT services for Lufthansa Industry Solutions as a nearshore partner. The quality of work performed by AMD convinced Lufthansa Industry Solutions to officially take over this service provider in 15 April 2019. This was key to company’s strategic growth in response to the rising demand for IT services in the German, Austrian, and Swiss market.

2020 was an unusual year, did you experience any difficulties during your operations? How did you cope with “The Smart Working Mode”?

As an IT consulting company, fully integrated with our mother company, we have always been ready to sustain remote work while keeping in mind safety measures for topics such as data protection, information security, which for a company like ours are paramount. Our agile working methodology allows our employees a lot of independence and flexibility in the way they organize their working time or space without affecting quality and standard of service delivery.

Certainly, the sustained long-term lockdown did not find us unprepared. Our new offices at Arena Center have been designed keeping in mind all the regulations for health and safety.

How is the company performing? Are there any plans for further extensions?

The IT industry is the fastest growing industry in the market nowadays. As an IT consulting company, part of one of the leading IT consulting companies in Germany, we are always up to date with the technological trends. After a difficult year 2020, we are back on track to a growing path. Currently we employee more than 200 IT consultants and the plan is to grow by at least 30% during 2022.

We value the cooperation with universities and academies specialized in software training as well as intense in-house training and mentorship offered not only by the team in Albania but also through our colleagues in Germany.

What are your impressions of the current business-operating environment in Albania? What challenges are you facing?

The overall business-operating environment in Albania is relatively stable. Setting up and operating an IT consulting business is relatively easy from a perspective of capital investment as well as fiscal and regulatory aspects. Albania, particularly Tirana has been developing quickly into a digital hub in the Balkans. Five years ago, there was only one IT company with more than 100 employees, right now there are at least five in this range. The right synergy between private sector, institutions of higher education, particularly private ones, and the government, as well as logistical aspects of the business such as office locations or IT Network infrastructure all contribute towards growth in this sector.

The more attractive the sector, the higher the interest of young people to study on this field.

Our focus is to offer IT services to our home market; therefore, we do not compete for customers in Albania, rather for resources. Companies similar to ours might consider investing in personnel development and training, which is the source towards sustainable business growth and avoid artificially distorting the job market.

Another big challenge is the choice that some of our employees make to leave the country in response to the increasing demand in the global market for IT services.

What improvements in your business-operating environment do you think are important for attracting more foreign investors in Albania?

In our business environment there is no direct improvement that is needed, other than at a more strategic level, to increase young professionals’ confidence that there will be a better future in Albania for them and for their children.

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Mr. Xavier Mulliez – CEO of Voltalia in Albania

March 16, 2021
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rptnb

“We will bring to Albania the most advanced technologies available in the solar industry”.

 

FIAA: Voltalia chose to enter the Albanian Energy Renewable market in 2020. Could you tell us why in the Photovoltaic Energy? 

Mr. Mulliez: Photovoltaic is the cheapest way to produce electricity in the world and it happens that Voltalia is doing business in the renewable energy, which includes solar photovoltaic (and also wind, storage, biomass and hydro).

As Voltalia has entered the Albanian market during a very unusual year (2020), what were/are the difficulties you faced during this first year? What are the most significant project challenges that you have to overcome?

It was indeed dramatic for many people around the world, and we are confident that the vaccine will be deployed efficiently in order for people to recover their lifestyle, hopefully in a more transitioned. Getting back to Voltalia, for us, it was actually a year of great achievements where we managed to secure a triple 1 000. We reached a 1000 MW of installed capacity worldwide, 1000 MW of long term power sales contracts in 2020 alone and the total staff also surpassed 1000 co-workers. Particularly in Albania, we were awarded the Karavasta Solar project, a power plant of 140 MW that will harness the sun and convert it into the cheapest electricity available for the Albanians at 24.89 EUR per MWh. This is the result of a strong commitment from all and a good team-spirit despite the home-office. We were able to meet all requirements while administrations and offices were under lockdown and we are very proud to be in Albania today.

You are new in Albania, which are your impressions of the current business environment in our country? What challenges are you facing? 

With the Karavasta tender, Albania has shown once more that it was ready to welcome foreign investors. I have no doubt that the solar photovoltaic industry as well as the upcoming wind projects will continue to attract European and American companies in the country while the new power market unfolds. It’s an evidence to me. As far as other sectors are concerned, I see a lot of potential everywhere: ecotourism, agroforestry, education, health care and IT, just to name a few.

What improvements in your business operating environment do you feel are critical to attract more foreign investment in Albania?

Well, we have a policy to work with local companies each time it is possible and that’s exactly what we have been doing. On the other hand we will bring to Albania the most advanced technologies available in the solar industry. In the end, the Karavasta solar plant will be handed over to the Albanian government at the end of the concession and we must select the most long lasting equipment. Having said that and to answer your question more clearly, it is important for the successful unbundling of the Albanian power sector and the successful implementation of the new regulatory framework that the government observes the European Standards. The European standards in the electrical sector have proven to attract large investments in the EU where large player are now thriving. So why shouldn’t it be the case in Albania?

What are your investment plans for the next 2-3 years? 

My program for the 2-3 coming years is to effectively commission the Karavasta solar photovoltaic plant in time, budget and performance. In Albania, we are also working on additional opportunities, on which we adopted the exact same strategy as for Karavasta. Personally, I will also invest my time in recruiting and consolidating the local team at Voltalia Albanie, settled our corporate culture in accordance with Voltalia way of doing business and etc. That being said, we are recruiting! Our Concession agreement goes until 2053, so the 2-3 first years are key to the long term establishment.

 

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