Like storm clouds off in the distance, the impending Brexit looms ominously for Europe. With uncertainty to just how much Britain leaving the EU will affect trade with its neighbours, to say things are up in the air is putting it lightly. In fact, Bulgaria is still holding off the decision on whether to adopt to the Euro and no doubt waiting to see just how things will pan out with Brexit.
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Vladislav Panev, board chairman of asset management firm Sky Funds, had mixed views on how the Brexit vote would trouble Bulgaria. “Brexit is very bad news for us because it probably means less generosity from Brussels regarding the EU funds. However, this is a chance to arrange our economy in a way so it does not depend on EU funds,” he said. “The UK has a relatively small share of trade dealings with Bulgaria and is not among the top trade partners of the country, that is why I don’t expect major consequences in that aspect.”
Bulgaria’s economy showed signs of progress in June, with retail and construction some of the major areas contributing the most, but it’s the country’s technology sector that could see a huge rise. This is due to Sofia starting to be seen as the “hidden startup champion of Europe”, as the capital city recently held the WEBIT.FESTIVAL, a two-day tech event for some of the world’s major players in the startup scene.
This backing of Sofia as a new startup hub is bolstered by founder and chairman of the Webit Foundation, Plamen Russev, who recently spoke to Forbes regarding the development potential of Sofia. “The city is shaping as a great place and one of the leaders in attracting and growing startups and founders,” he said. “So it is just the beginning and I am hopeful to see a huge growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the city and the country in the coming years.”
But perhaps Bulgaria has nothing to fear at all, with Sofia’s potential for expansion looking strong, as well as ecommerce in Europe proving to be a real force to be reckoned with in 2016. Total online sales are expected to hit EUR 509 B, with EUR 24.5 B coming from Eastern Europe. With the likelihood of further online stores emerging due to their ease of creation, the simplicity of ecommerce hosting, as well as more new internet users getting online, these figures could well rise dramatically in years to come. Bulgaria is actually said to have one of the fastest broadband connections in the world, and online sales have risen by at least 10% every year since 2013, according to this site.
As the complete arrangements of Brexit will likely take a minimum of two years to complete, Bulgaria still has time to see how things play out in Western Europe. However, as Vladislav Panev discussed, Britain’s decision may not have many consequences for Bulgaria, and its retail (both online and offline) and tech sectors will hopefully stay resilient through Europe’s current economic uncertainty.
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