Ukraine will be rebuilt - and it has already started!
On February 15-16, our team, together with other representatives of the Norwegian business, visited ReBuild Ukraine, which took place in Warsaw. Our main conclusion: support for Ukraine is strong, and the private sector is already getting on board. However, the financial toolbox to protect risk capital, support small and medium-sized initiatives, and direct funding to the municipalities is currently not in place, albeit discussed and planned for.
The extent of damage varies across different regions. According to the Kyiv School of Economics, the amount of documented war-induced damage to residential and non-residential real estate and infrastructure in December 2022 reached $137.8 billion (at replacement cost). In particular, the damages to the housing stock amounted to $54.0 billion, to infrastructure – $35.6 billion and to industrial enterprise assets – $13.0 billion. Some estimates of Ukraine’s reconstruction needs go as high as €1 trillion in external financing.
It is clear to everyone that significant reconstruction efforts will be required once the war comes to an end. However, despite the fact that the war is still ongoing, the private sector, both domestic and international, are already getting on board and becoming invested. While the local authorities in Ukraine are prioritizing meeting the immediate needs of those residing near or on the frontline, they are also reconstructing infrastructure in liberated and distant from the frontline areas utilizing the available resources.
Ukraine is also preparing the ground for international actors to enter. The construction sector is undergoing significant change, accompanied by changes in legislation. While trying to improve transparency and reduce the risk of corruption, the country is working on introducing more digitalization of the building sector, with plans to issue permits and certificates online. Many Ukrainian communities are striving to apply the best international building practices to their reconstruction efforts and, therefore, are willing to introduce European approaches and standards.
At the conference in Warsaw, it was clearly communicated that Europe supports Ukraine in both immediate needs and simultaneously within rebuilding efforts. In total, 22 countries participated together with more than 300 companies, as well as representatives from the Ukrainian municipalities were present. The needs of Ukraine are enormous and understood, but it is clear that each country must find a way to attract business back to Ukraine. It is, of course, necessary to rebuild physical infrastructure, but it is evenly important to invest in the Ukrainian economy in order for Ukraine to manage and stay resilient on all fronts, meaning economically as well as humanitarian and military.
Denmark, together with Germany, was especially visible during the exhibition. Denmark boasting with more than 28 private companies, especially focused on infrastructure, homes, heating, water supply, etc., and Germany exhibiting with similar technology and know-how for heavy machinery needed for reconstruction and rebuilding. Norway, unfortunately, was not represented officially at the exhibition, but added presence through a delegation brought together by us in NUCC consisting of private companies looking into opportunities in Ukraine, together with Export Credit Finance Norway, NHO (The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise) and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Kyiv. Together with the Chamber, there were several organized meetings with Ukrainian municipalities, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Business Organization (EBA) and others. The Norwegian delegation also attended conference programs, giving a deeper understanding of the current and future situation for Ukraine, laying the groundwork for visualizing how to support, and how to do business with Ukraine during wartime.
Except for inter-governmental immediate support to Ukraine now, the toolbox for private companies to enter the Ukrainian market is still in the planning stage. Where Denmark leads the way in their approach, working on the establishment of their Ukrainian support fund and focusing on onboarding the private sector, Norway has yet to do the same, with their promises of 75 billion NOK for the next five years.
The Norwegian-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce is aligned with international prospects on supporting the private sector in partnering with Ukraine and will continue its advocacy for similar official support. Governments can provide urgent help and aid, but rebuilding will eventually be done by the private sector. Until Norway enables the necessary financial instruments, the Chamber will continue to connect our private sector with possible Ukrainian partners and financial institutions, on the basis that first-movers will be ready when the tools are in place. There are already bilateral B2B contracts being made, despite the ongoing war.
Ukraine is already looking forward – it’s not too early for us to do the same! Exploring opportunities in Ukraine now is strongly linked with the support they actually ask for.
Andreas L. Tranøy,