Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) still feels the effects of war twenty years ago, especially economically. Today unemployment is at 44 percent and youth unemployment is the highest in the world, at 63 percent.

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have enormous potential to help meet these economic challenges. Through PPPs, municipalities in BiH can leverage their local resources to attract private partners able to invest in and contribute to sustainable local economic development—combining public and private financial, human, management, and technical capabilities toward shared goals.

Last month, Resonance trained project and municipal staff to identify and shape sustainable, transparent and effective partnerships that will spur local economic development in BiH through the Growth-Oriented Local Development (GOLD) project. GOLD is a 5-year initiative led funded by USAID and Sida that centers on promoting investment, jobs, exports, and sales in 48 municipalities in BiH. Through the GOLD Project, Resonance is helping open eyes to the promise of PPPs in BiH.

Resonance has identified a number of interesting partnership opportunities around geothermal clusters, industrial park development, industry-led workforce development, strategic value chain development, recycling and waste management, and infrastructure development and management, such as irrigation systems.

Why haven’t public-private partnerships already gained momentum across BiH? Initially, many in both the public and private sector point to challenges in the legal and regulatory framework. But a closer look suggests that the paucity of partnerships is more rooted in a lack of a partnership mindset, mistrust between the public and private sectors, and a dearth of knowledge about how to identify and structure effective partnerships. Many also only consider contractual PPPs that must go through formal procurement processes and fail to recognize opportunities for development partnerships that leverage public and private resources to achieve common objectives without legally binding agreements.

Over the coming months, Resonance will continue to work with the GOLD team and municipalities to promote the concept of partnerships, share tools to achieve local economic development objectives, and help structure these partnerships—resulting in new, higher paying jobs, new investment, and new sales and export revenue in communities across BiH.