Financial Times looked into the IT-sphere of Belarus and noted some of the achievements and challenges that hinder the development of the industry.
The article traditionally starts with a brief overview of the industry and recognition of the merit of the last years.
“Belarusians have a reputation for being talented in science, technology, engineering and maths, a distinction that dates from when the country was a Soviet hub for heavy machinery and the space programme. They are now as well known for their skills in IT and artificial intelligence. Among the apps developed by Belarusians are Viber messenger, MSQRD “face-swapping” and AI Matter photo editing, which have been acquired by foreign companies such as Facebook and Google.”
The author of the text doesn’t overlook the country’s support for IT companies resulting in hundreds of efficient start-ups. In its turn, the sector contributed 5,5% of Belarus’s GDP in 2018 and counting, Nastassia Astrasheuskaya notes. The Hi Tech Park (HTP) providing IT companies with tax and other incentives is the core of this success story.
According to the FT, Belarusians who left the country 10-15 years ago are now returning. Their skills, knowledge and international experience are in very high demand in Belarus. They often set up their own startups and businesses.
Fourteen years later, we see no brain drain as such,” says Kirill Zalessky, a representative for HTP.
Apart from Belarusians, foreigners also find the country attractive for relocation. Two years ago HTP introduced English law, extended tax breaks, legalised the operations in cryptocurrency and blockchain, and simplified the hiring process for foreign companies.
The move was to boost the country’s IT sector, attract foreign investments and turn Belarus into an international tech haven and it worked out. Since then the number of companies has more than tripled as well as increasing the park’s export profits to nearly 40% annually.
Another positive side is that workers can choose between newly minted start-ups and established companies with history and reputation.
Risks and challenges
IT insiders say that unlike Russia and Ukraine, Belarus lacks serial entrepreneurs, and therefore investment at the early-stage start-ups. The geopolitical risk associated with political instability and sanctions is another barrier to investment, this is a common feature for all three countries.
“The potential of Belarus’s IT sector still depends on continued state support and the vagaries of a fragile geopolitical situation. But the success of Flo shows the country remains fertile ground for IT developers — when the idea is right,” the FT concludes.