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Economics

Alexey Valkov, Director of St. Petersburg International Economic Forum: SPIEF is global event today

The Forum will be held from 5 to 8 June 2024 in St. Petersburg


Alexey Valkov, Director of SPIEF and Deputy Director of the Roscongress Foundation, told BRICS Africa Channel's Peter Ndoro about the importance of the event for the development of Russia and the world and how interested businesses are in investing in the African continent.

Tell us how has SPIEF developed since its inception in 1997?

In fact, it has been developing constantly. Over the course of 20 years, the Forum has changed three venues and undergone many changes in terms of organisation. Today, SPIEF is truly a global event. Last year it was visited by more than 17,000 guests from 135 countries. 

Many people discuss the World Economic Forum, but one gets the impression that the event in St. Petersburg is much bigger. What is so special about SPIEF that it attracts so many people?

I think it's all about contacts between CEOs and leading businessmen from all over the world. Of course, the extensive media coverage of the event is also important. During the four days, journalists work, and entrepreneurs participate in special programmes, negotiate and sign contracts. Our platform helps to develop business.

What issues are discussed at the forum? It is clear that they mostly talk about business, but they also touch on other topics.

About 17,000 people take part in the event. All sectors of the economy are represented on our platform. Over 1,000 business sessions and panel discussions take place over four days. We are also working on the architecture of SPIEF's business programme and are striving to ensure that our agenda reflects the global world and the events taking place in it. In general, there are five main topics on the agenda: the global economy, investment in the Russian market, human potential, the labour market, and information technology and innovation.

Climate change and sustainable entrepreneurship are now hot topics. Will these issues be on the forum's agenda?

Yes. Over the four days, we will hold several sessions dedicated to these topics. As organisers, we are committed to a green agenda. One of our annual events, the Eastern Economic Forum organised by the Roscongress Foundation, was the first event with a zero carbon footprint. We are striving to achieve such results at SPIEF as well, and it is much larger in scale.

We are trying to reduce waste and incorporate a green agenda into the organisation of the event.

What benefits does this forum bring to Russia?

Here we can discuss our common goals with our partners. It is a great opportunity to establish contacts with entrepreneurs from all over the world, to tell them about what we have to offer.

If I understand correctly, at this event international investors and businessmen can meet the people they are interested in?

Yes, we have members of the Russian government, the Deputy Prime Minister, as well as ministers and governors. They participate in negotiations, panel discussions, and sign documents. Forum participants can really get to know the officials.

What do businessmen who come to the forum tell you? Despite their busyness, they find time to participate.

Yes, we are very happy that every year we are visited by a lot of businessmen, we appreciate it and see that every year the interest of international business in the forum only grows. People really express their desire to come to us. They want to negotiate and develop in Russia.

Tell us about Africa's participation in SPIEF. Is the number of participants from there growing?

Yes, of course. Africans are more and more interested in the forum every year. Our active co-operation began in 2019, with the first summit of the continent's heads of state and the Russia-Africa Economic Forum. The second summit and forum were held in St Petersburg last summer. After these events, more and more Africans come to visit us every year. We cooperate on a special business programme, for example, we hold a Russian-African business round table.

What should South African CEOs expect from travelling to this year's forum?

I would advise everyone to prepare in advance. This is the most important thing, because absolutely everyone at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum has a very busy schedule. The event offers many opportunities. It is better to know at once what you want. You need to focus on something specific.

What about visas and other documents? Are they hard to do?

As far as I know, there are no problems with visas between South Africa and Russia. For other countries we provide our own support, thanks to which you can get a visa right on the day you hand in your documents to the consulate. It is issued for three weeks. During this time you can see St. Petersburg and attend the forum.

How do you think SPIEF differs from other global forums? What do you think is its uniqueness?

We provide an open platform for discussion. Everyone can propose a topic for discussion to the organising committee. Thousands of experts from all over the world take part in the forum. We provide tools for the development of business and bilateral relations. We are open to co-operation and make sure that our guests achieve positive results.

For the full version of the interview, please visit the TV BRICS website

Photo: BRICS Africa Channel
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