The Wallonia Export-Investment Agency (AWEX) is a Public Interest Organisation in Wallonia created in 1998. It is the complete partner for all Walloon companies wishing to develop overseas and constitutes a one-stop shop for all foreign companies interested in setting up in Wallonia or expanding their existing activities.
The Wallonia Export-Investment Agency (AWEX) is responsible for the development and management of Wallonia's international economic relations.
Its general competency is twofold:
- The promotion of Walloon exports, where it acts as a complete partner to support the Walloon exporter;
- The attraction of foreign investments in Wallonia, where it acts as one-stop-shop for any potential investor.
To which should be added:
- The promotion of the innovation and creativity ecosystem;
- The presentation and distribution of the territorial brand policy
The Agency's aims and missions are set by a Management Contract signed for a term of 5 years with the Walloon Government. A few examples of aims:
- Raise the profile and improve the international brand image of Wallonia
- Make companies more successful at exporting and trigger the "Export" reflex within companies
- Design and produce an annual action plan for international prospecting for exporting companies, including in it the philosophy of a priority market/sector
- Diversify Walloon exports and foreign investments geographically and sectorally (in particular based on the competitiveness clusters)
- Strengthen the potential for innovation-led international cooperation and join international partnership networks
- Provide a quality after-sales service (particularly for investors based in Wallonia)
- Promote the internationalisation of young people and cultural immersion
- Become part of the international relations policy and actions of Wallonia and the Wallonia-Brussels Federation (including the promotion of cultural industries)
Three main cross-cutting mechanisms
All the support that the Wallonia Export-Investment Agency provides to exporting companies takes place through three main cross-cutting mechanisms:
- Human support which is as personalised as possible.
- A highly-diversified prospecting offer geographically and sectorally
- A range of financial aid
The role of the regional centres
The Wallonia Export-Investment Agency's Regional Centres are local services. They have the important function of providing advice and guidance to companies. They are the first point of contact for any company wanting to become a Wallonia Export-Investment Agency customer.
The Wallonia Export-Investment Agency has offices in the five Walloon provinces, located in:
- Charleroi (Hainaut)
- Liège + a branch in Eupen for companies from the German-speaking community (Liège)
- Libramont (Luxembourg)
- Mons (Hainaut)
- Namur (Namur)
- Nivelles (Walloon Brabant)
The role of the economic and commercial network overseas
The Wallonia Export-Investment Agency relies on around one hundred Economic and Commercial Attachés (ECA) across the 5 continents. These cover some 120 countries and around twenty international organisations.
Although the ECAs represent Wallonia internationally, they mainly provide several essential functions for the international development of companies:
- information and monitoring across the foreign countries;
- the production of market studies;
- help with prospecting during collective missions (with AWEX supervision) or individual missions by companies (programme of targeted appointments),
- assistance on the ground (logistics, linguistics, legal, financial investigations...)
- at around thirty locations, a welcoming space accessible to Walloon companies that are intensively prospecting a market (Welcome Office).
The ECAs also hold Business Days on their annual returns to Belgium.
These are personalised meetings with companies that wish to meet with them to set out an export project, or following previous commercial efforts with foreign prospects and sometimes to discuss the avenues for resolving a dispute.
The role of the other export support services
These services are based at the Agency's head office in Brussels.
5 geographic and multi-sectoral departments are responsible for providing information about foreign markets and organising the actions of the annual promotion and prospecting programme aimed at Walloon exporters. These departments cover:
- Western Europe
- Central and Eastern Europe (including CIS countries)
- Africa, the Near and Middle East
- The Americas
1 sector-specific service assuming the same role as that of the geographic departments in the field of fashion and design (Wallonie-Bruxelles Design Mode – WBDM)
1 business unit dedicated to technology monitoring and partnerships, which integrates innovative Walloon companies into international innovation networks
4 Departments and units offering financial assistance:
- Financial Incentives Directorate
- International financing and projects unit (implements the financial products of SOFINEX)
- Management of language immersion courses
- Explort programme
The AWEX EU Office, based at the European Commission in Brussels, serves a clientele of more upstream businesses: the EEN (European Enterprise Network), AEI, AdN, NCP, clusters, public operators. This service operates more of a lobbying and active monitoring mission on European research programmes and networks, to promote Walloon operators or best practice for the benefit of third countries.
5 support packages
This financial aid is dispensed through various mechanisms likely to cover the main stages of an export process.
Most of the scheme is brought together in a portfolio comprised of 5 support packages, each one considered as a budget, cover support for:
- Consultancy (export strategy and design)
- Communication and marketing
- Participation in international trade fairs
- Prospecting/mobility outside the EU (foreign travel)
- Commercial representation (through an office outside the EU)