Panel + Q&A (*Maximum 4 Panelists)

Going Digital- No longer optional, but essential.

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Building a digital economy is the only way to achieve inclusive and sustainable economic growth for countries with ambition to compete globally. The digital economy, is a key growth driver, creating positive spillover effects. Positive impacts of the digital economy include: higher growth, productivity and value add, employment creation, higher investment, mixed trade impacts and market concentration. By 2022, over 60% of global GDP will be digitized. Technology can democratize access to markets and global trade, and help globalization live up to its original promise of shared prosperity and growth. Thus, the expansion of the digital economy creates many new and broader societal opportunities.

This panel will showcase how the USAID Cooperation for Growth Project (CFG) in Serbia, implemented by Cardno, recognized that “Going Digital” is the new normal and applied the ecosystem approach to improve SME competitiveness through digitalization. The practitioner panel will provide participants insight into the importance of digitalization, the ecosystem development the Project facilitated to enable the digital economy and challenges faced along the way with public and private sector actors.

We will explore key examples of how, through collaboration with the Government of Serbia (GoS) and private sector actors, CFG has built a self-reliant, market based system to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to increase competitiveness in local and international markets through digitalization. This will include initiatives to expand the e-commerce ecosystem and broadening access to finance through fintech solutions such as a local crowd lending platform.

This work has become even more relevant in the context of COVID-19 where many countries are struggling to conduct banking and commerce. Serbia has risen as an example of how early USAID interventions are helping improve resilience in crises, especially for its still developing SME sector. These self-reliant systems will provide SMEs across sectors with the services they need to increase their sophistication and digitalization.

Confirmed Panelists

  1. Dragana Stanojevic is setting a new standard in economic governance program delivery as the Chief of Party for the USAID Cooperation for Growth Project implemented by Cardno. Relentlessly challenging business as usual, Dragana is committed to systemic change. She is using her extensive understanding of the economic, regulatory, political and behavioral root causes impeding Serbian SME growth, to broker partnerships and reform coalitions of unlikely partners. She leads the CFG team to find new ways of tackling stubborn problems, test new ideas, and be open to new perspectives. Determined to demystify digital economy one SME at the time, she led and hosted the first national forum on SMEs in 2019 that underlined the necessity for Serbian SMEs to prepare for new markets and export-oriented business models by getting involved in e-commerce, e-payments and all other aspects of a digital economy.
  2. Aleksandar Zaric connects ambitious ideas about digital transformation to real-life practical efforts as the Business Environment Lead for the USAID Cooperation for Growth Project implemented by Cardno. Committed to Serbia and the Balkan region successfully embracing the Fourth Industrial revolution, he has helped build the eCommerce ecosystem in Serbia thru partnerships with public and private sectors. Aleksandar sparks new networks wherever he goes. Intensely curious and generous, he has facilitated connections that helped Serbian SMEs and consumers adapt to COVID-19 effects.
  3. Sandra Rodic traded her career in capital markets to focus on access to finance for SMEs as the Access to Finance Lead for the USAID Cooperation for Growth Project implemented by Cardno. Fluency in asset management and restructuring is nothing compared to getting commercial banks and SMEs to speak the same language. Trained as an economist, Sandra combines rigor with heart, improving financial system, policy and practice with deep appreciation of each SME, people and relationships. End game for Sandra is that every Serbian SME understands benefits of credit and has digital solutions at its fingertips.

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  1. Great session idea submission. Serbia is a great example of what happens to the local SME sector when backed by digitized self reliant market based systems.

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