Global pandemic and severe local drought spell opportunities for Israeli tech companies in Poland

Economic attache Sarah-Ann Madi believes the untapped potential of the Polish market makes it worthwhile the effort for Israeli businesses

Allon Sinai 13:1009.06.20

The fact that Poland is experiencing its worst drought in recent history is hardly making international headlines. However, for Israel's Economic and Trade Mission in Poland and its head, Sarah-Ann Madi, this is exactly the sort of development that deserves close attention as it could present opportunities for Israeli companies.


"Regardless of coronavirus, we are always trying to address the current needs of the country, such as the drought Poland is facing," Madi told CTech earlier this week. "We are trying to provide water management and irrigation solutions for agriculture and attend more specifically to their needs. The agricultural sector here mainly needs technologies that make the irrigation process more efficient and cost-effective."


The Poland mission, which is based in the Israeli embassy in Warsaw and is one of 44 economic missions operated globally by the Ministry of Economy and Industry, will be hosting a webinar with the embassy next week presenting Israeli water tech to Polish companies.


Sarah-Ann Madi, head of Israel's Economic and Trade Mission to Poland. Photo: Shlomi Amsalem Sarah-Ann Madi, head of Israel's Economic and Trade Mission to Poland. Photo: Shlomi Amsalem


Poland entered the fourth and final stage of its initial coronavirus (Covid-19) exit plan over the weekend, with gyms, theaters, and cinemas all among the businesses being allowed to open under certain restrictions. The business sector is also slowly beginning to return to work from offices, and all this despite the fact that Poland hasn't even flattened the curve yet. Many of the recent cases have come courtesy of an outbreak in an industrial region in the south of the country, but nevertheless Poland has identified over 575 cases in each of the past three days, more than any other three-day period since the outbreak began. Poland has registered over 27,000 cases in all, with 1,166 related deaths being tallied to date. The number of daily deaths has at least subsided over recent weeks, with nine new deaths on Monday taking the tally since the start of June to 102.


The fear of a financial crisis has pushed Poland to reopen its economy, with the World Bank saying in its latest report on Monday that the Polish economy will contract by 4.2% in 2020. The World Bank expects the country will see economic growth of 2.8% in 2021.


"The economic point of view is that Poland right now is in a technical recession, meaning it will be short in duration. It might last through 2020, but will be mild in severity and will probably not affect the GDP growth in 2021," said Madi. "The pandemic has meant that we have had to be even more innovative than usual and reinvent ourselves. We had to switch to a virtual platform and move everything to online meetings. When the pandemic started we organized a lot of consultations at the government level and had officials participating in a webinar presenting the Magen app, Hebrew for a shield, which tells users if they have been in contact with confirmed patients. We presented the way the Ministry of Health, together with Israeli technologies, was coping with the pandemic in Israel. We also planned a cyber event that was dedicated mainly to solutions for this period, focusing on making remote work more efficient and safe. We identified cyber as a crucial sector during these times in particular, but also in normal times. I think a lot of people agree that Israel is a world leader in cybersecurity so we still have opportunities there and a lot of opportunities presented themselves during this period. In addition, sectors like fintech, health tech, and water, which is very crucial right now to Poland, show a lot of potential. We are also trying to explore the potential in e-mobility and green mobility."


The mission will be holding an online event focused on autonomous cars at the end of this month, together with the Polish Alternative Fuels Association, and a speaker from the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, with Mobileye among the Israeli companies to have already confirmed their participation.


"The reason we are here is to help Israeli companies expand and explore opportunities in the market. We have staff here that are sectorally divided so everyone has their own specialties and can share ideas and opportunities on the market from having the right connections in different sectors and being able to provide the actual data on the market," said Madi. "We try and stay relevant and updated on every trend that happens here and try to push it forward to bring opportunities to Israeli companies. The success stories of Israeli companies here proves the added value we bring, both in terms of official connections at the government level and also at the business level."


Madi, who at 30-years-old is the youngest Israeli heading an economic mission, hails from Israel’s Druze minority, which she says often comes as a surprise to people abroad. "Many times it comes as a surprise to non-Israelis that other ethnic minorities live in Israel and are part of the diverse population there," said Madi, who grew up in the Druze Village of Julis in Northern Israel. "But after the surprise and some curiosity satisfied, I believe there is no difference to the people I come in contact with since I am here to represent my country, Israel."


Entering the Polish market is far from straightforward, according to Madi, especially in a time of crisis. Nevertheless, she believes the currently untapped potential presents Israeli companies with plenty of reasons to make the effort.


"If normally Israeli companies would have to have great patience to enter the Polish market, now, during the time of coronavirus, they will have to be equipped with an additional portion of patience," Madi explained. "The market definitely suffered from the crisis, even though the government's anti-crisis plan which adds up to about 10-13% of the GDP seems to be helping. Nevertheless, they are definitely more cautious when it comes to new commitments. Having said that, I do believe that great potential still resides in Polish-Israeli business relations and we are here to help companies explore the opportunities and make the most out of them."