Since its establishment in 1924 and reopening in its current legal form in 1970, the German-Indonesian Chamber of Commerce EKONID has become a crucial business partner for German and Indonesian companies.
Jan Roennfeld, Managing Director of EKONID, spoke to NOW! Jakarta about the chamber’s role and activities, the growing economic interest of Germany in Indonesia and his goals for the future.
How did you end up in Indonesia?
I came to Indonesia the first time in 1986 with a former classmate of mine who was half Indonesian, half German. In the following years, I travelled repeatedly through Indonesia and Southeast Asia. In the 1980s, the Southeast Asian countries were called the Tiger States, and when I realized how little Germans knew about the dynamic developments here, my professional interest in and focus on these countries grew. I started working for EKONID in 1998.
What are the main activities and tasks of EKONID?
By tradition, we are a membership organisation. We have around 500 German and Indonesian companies as members and we represent their interests. We basically serve as a platform which is utilized for networking, interest representation and exchange through a wide range of activities and social events.
Our second pillar is business support which works in both directions: we support German companies who want to come Indonesia and vice versa. If German companies want to enter the market, we advise them on the legal environment, what they have to consider etc. We also offer individual product studies, or help to look for business partners and advise on legal matters like the establishment of companies.We also do general business promotion activities, where we actively participate in about 15 events per year in Germany to promote Indonesia, as well as ASEAN as a region.
These are the two main pillars of EKONID, whereas the third part is a more strategic business development. We have, for instance, been engaged for a long time in the field of renewable energies and bring Indonesian and German companies together to work on that subject. We just added energy efficiency as another key area because it has become a more significant factor that companies have to consider these days, more so than in the past.
How do you rate the economic interest of Germany in Indonesia?
The first batch of big German companies came in the 1980s, but with the financial crisis in the late 1990s, we hardly saw any new ones coming in. There was a renewed interest between 2011 and 2014. During that time, many delegations came to visit but this phase also coincided with a growing protectionism and more nationalistic policies by the Indonesian government. It was a little unfortunate because we had this growing interest but many project ideas developed back then had to be put on hold because the policies and attitude towards foreign businesses had changed.
The current government then switched back to the more efficient and open policy in 2015 which has been gradually implemented and improved the business environment for foreigners. The interest is definitely still there, we all know that Indonesia is a country with lots of untapped potential. However, companies still have to be convinced that they can put their trust in the long-term predictability of Indonesian business policy. It’s all about providing the right framework. So I would say that we are still far below the realisation of the actual potential, but I am hopeful when the government keeps on track with their improvements, German business and investment in Indonesia will increase.
What are your goals for the future?
One of my personal goals is to establish vocational training which is definitely an area EKONID will focus more on in the future. I have the ambition to give something back to this country, and a more practical education is something Indonesia really needs, also in terms of its development.
I am also still playing with the idea that maybe one day, all the Europeans here come together and move into one European Business Centre. That would make sense and would increase our standing and visibility tremendously.