War can bring out the best in people, but it also sadly takes away many of the best among us. Around one-third of the more than six hundred member companies at the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine (AmCham Ukraine) have seen employees killed during the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. Almost half of all member companies have experienced some form of damage to plants or facilities as a result of the invasion.
These figures reflect the tragic toll of the war on the Ukrainian people. Thousands of lives have been lost, and millions of Ukrainians have been forced from their homes. The scale of the destruction caused by Russia’s invasion has also been staggering and already runs to hundreds of billions of dollars in material damage. This total continues to rise on a daily basis.
Despite these horrors, the mood on the ground in Ukraine remains remarkably resilient. While lionhearted Ukrainians defend their country on the battlefield, companies work hard in the business arena to safeguard Ukraine’s economy and pave the way for future recovery. The Ukrainian business environment remains strikingly dynamic and innovative; for example, since the start of the full-scale invasion, AmCham Ukraine has welcomed 88 new member companies.
Businesses throughout Ukraine have adapted impressively to the many security, logistical, and economic challenges of the war. They continue to pay taxes, create jobs, invest, rebuild communities, support humanitarian efforts, and deliver essential services in exceptionally difficult and unpredictable circumstances. Looking ahead, they are ready to show the whole world what they are really capable of once peace returns to the country.
AmCham Ukraine has conducted nine surveys since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion to gauge the mood within the Ukrainian business community. Many of the survey findings have been consistent throughout the entire wartime period, and have reflected the courage and confidence that have sustained Ukrainian businesses amid the physical hardships and mental trauma of the invasion.
As the war passed the eighteen month mark in late August, 84 percent of AmCham Ukraine member companies were operational. Many confirmed that they already had upbeat plans in place for Ukraine’s recovery and rebuilding, with 74 percent planning to create jobs within the framework of existing projects and 63 percent looking to invest in new projects or facilities. Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of member companies (92 percent) expressed their confidence in Ukrainian victory.
As Russia continues to bomb residential buildings, schools, hospitals, and Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, the safety and security of employees and clients remains the number one priority for all businesses operating in today’s Ukraine. Other pressing war-related issues include de-mining, the conscription of employees, the ongoing Russian naval blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, transport queues at Ukraine’s land borders with the country’s EU neighbors, war risk insurance, cyber security, and much more. Nevertheless, clear indications of durability and innovation can be seen throughout the Ukrainian business community, with the Ukrainian economy expected to experience modest growth in 2023 following an inevitably sharp decline during the first year of the invasion.
My message to the international business community is unambiguous: It is risky to invest in Ukraine right now, but it’s riskier not to invest. There are countless examples of companies throughout the Ukrainian economy that successfully operate in-between air raid sirens; meanwhile, many multinationals have resumed operations in Ukraine’s regions and are building shelters or other infrastructure to address the specific security challenges created by the Russian invasion. It’s a risk-and-reward model in action.
I am convinced that now is the right moment to begin looking at Ukraine as a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity. The biggest national recovery project in Europe since World War II is already underway and will gain considerable further momentum in the months and years ahead. Those who join this process during the early stages will benefit from a range of advantages.
Ukraine is a vast country with a large population, bountiful resources, and an excellent workforce. It is ideally located on the border of the European Union, with EU accession on track. Today’s Ukraine is an increasingly self-confident country that has turned away from Russia and is advancing toward greater Euro-Atlantic integration. Over the past eighteen months, Ukraine’s resilient response to Russia’s criminal invasion has captured the imagination of the watching world; Ukrainians are now more determined than ever to build the kind of future their nation deserves. This will create opportunities that no ambitious investors or international businesses should miss.
Andy Hunder is President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine.