Individuals or companies escaping the war in Ukraine who choose Cyprus as their next destination will not only find protection and work. Many of them will be able to offer valuable experience and expertise to our country’s growing tech sector, says Vasilis Zertalis, CEO of the business services provider Prospectacy.
What role do you think Cyprus will take on as a business centre as a result of the Russia-Ukraine crisis?
In the past, when conflict has broken out in our broader region – such as the civil war in Lebanon and the war in the former Yugoslavia – Cyprus took in refugees and hosted employees from the affected countries. Indeed, many of them became Cypriot citizens and productive members of society. Right now, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), around 3.4 million Ukrainians have fled their country, escaping mainly to EU member states. Some are expected to choose Cyprus as their next stop. Furthermore, it is likely that companies from Ukraine or Russia, some of which are already active in Cyprus, will choose to move their headquarters and staff to Cyprus. Beyond the humanitarian dimension of the issue, which is by far the most important, Cyprus could not only help the people fleeing Ukraine but also benefit from their expertise in a number of sectors.
Are there job/career opportunities in Cyprus for Russian and Ukrainian citizens? If so, in which sectors?
Ukraine has made a good name for itself in recent years when it comes to its performance in the technology sector, with Ukrainian tech workers considered among Europe’s best qualified. To prove my point, start-ups such as Grammarly, Readdle and YouScan, which are now popular worldwide, started in Ukraine and were later acquired by international conglomerates like Amazon and Snapchat. Furthermore, companies like Huawei, Siemens, Oracle and Samsung run research and development centres in Ukraine. As such, if individuals or companies from Ukraine choose Cyprus as their next destination, they will be able to offer valuable experience and expertise to our country’s growing tech sector. The same applies to Russian nationals, who are leaving their country due to uncertainty over the future of its economy and ties with the rest of the world. The recruitment of experienced, top quality human resources will help Cyprus in its effort to attract foreign companies and investments. Beyond the technology sector, it is a well-known fact that Cyprus is facing staff shortages across many sectors. As the Director-General of the Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEB), Michalis Antoniou recently pointed out, there are immediate staffing needs in the tourism, retail and hospitality sectors.
How can Cyprus become a technology hub and help companies from these countries move their headquarters?
Cyprus has many comparative advantages that make it an attractive headquartering destination for companies from around the world. Companies from Canada, the USA, Russia, Ukraine and Israel have already moved their corporate headquarters to Cyprus, which has helped boost not only the economy but also the island’s cultural diversity. Its geographic location, tax regime, highly educated local workforce, the use of the English language in the workplace, the high standard of the services sector, as well as the quality of life here are all taken into serious consideration by foreign companies. At the same time, the pandemic and introduction of remote working policies have further highlighted Cyprus’ advantages, leading more and more businesses and professionals to relocate to our country. The Government’s new investment promotion strategy is expected to contribute to the effort being made to establish the country as a leading destination for foreign companies and their staff. However, there is always room for improvement. The private sector and the State are once again being called to join forces to promote Cyprus abroad. At the same time, reform of the justice system is imperative so that we can boost our country’s competitiveness. Similarly, reducing bureaucracy is also key, in order to accelerate and simplify procedures. This could be achieved in conjunction with the state’s digital transformation.
As regards the challenge of recruiting human resources from Ukraine, I believe that solutions can be found so that they can start working in Cyprus straight away and become easily integrated into the workforce. As things stand, third country nationals wishing to be employed in Cyprus must present certification from their country of origin’s Justice Ministry, which is obviously hard for displaced Ukrainians to do. The OEB has suggested that these employees be initially allowed into Cyprus under a tourist visa, with the documentation process taking place at a later stage. The criteria for obtaining a Cyprus Digital Nomad Visa could also be broadened. This visa was recently introduced with the exclusive aim of attracting tech workers from third countries.
Which sectors have high investment prospects?
The Government’s new investment promotion strategy, which was published last October, indicates that Cyprus is focused on attracting companies operating mainly in the tech, maritime, innovation, research and development, biogenetics and biotechnology sectors, as well as in RES. Certain investments that have already been made in the technology sector have paved the way for the island to become a regional hub between Europe and Asia. It is worth noting that a recent study commissioned by Invest Cyprus showed that the economic impact of multinational tech companies operating in our country – such as Wargaming, Apella Games Ltd, Nexters, Easybrain, 3CX and more – reached €1.5 billion in 2020, with benefits felt across the entire economy, including the services, real estate, education, health and entertainment sectors, which increased state revenue even further. We must build upon this effort that has already begun, so as to further upgrade the country’s infrastructure to attract more innovative companies and renowned professionals, while also boosting Cyprus’ access to new markets within Europe and the wider region