Chambers of Commerce

Why You Absolutely Need Voka When Doing Business in Flanders

July 15, 2020

Voka Chambers of Commerce, the Flemish Network of Companies, is the largest entrepreneurial network in Flanders. It represents the interests of companies up to the highest level. In this article, you will read everything you need to know about Flanders most influential Chamber of Commerce.

Intro

It was created in January 2004, when the Flemish Economic Association and the eight regional Chambers of Commerce in Flanders decided to cooperate as part of an alliance.

Today Voka consists of Voka vzw and six Voka Chambers of Commerce. There is also Voka Metropolitan for Flemish companies in Brussels. Voka vzw mainly focuses on positioning, advocacy and project work at the Flemish level. The Chambers are particularly strong in regional advocacy, networking and strong support services for companies.

Since 2008, the Chamber has worked closely with 29 sector organizations, which further enhances the employer landscape.

Businesses can become direct members, thus strengthening Voka’s influence as the largest business network in Flanders. Members are their driving force. Voka is an organization of, for and by Flemish companies. Together they are working on an optimal framework for free and successful entrepreneurship in Flanders.

Management

Photo of Wouter de Geest, CEO of BASF Antwerpen

Currently, Wouter de Geest, CEO of BASF Antwerpen, is Voka’s president. He studied law at the University of Ghent, where he graduated in 1977. He started his professional career at the Ghent bar. In 1982 he started working at BASF Antwerp as head of the legal department.

In 1998 he started working at BASF’s headquarters in Ludwigshafen, where he prepared, among other things, the IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. In 2001 he returned to Antwerp, where he succeeded John Dejaeger as CEO in February 2007.

In 2009 he succeeded Carl Van Camp as chairman of Essenscia, the Belgian federation of the chemical industry. He held this position until 2012 when he was succeeded by Frank Coenen. In 2014 he took up this mandate again.

In addition, he was appointed in September 2011 by the Flemish Government Peeters II as chairman of the Flanders Industry Council. In June 2018 he was nominated as chairman of Voka in succession of Paul Kumpen.

Photo of Hans Maertens, Managing Director of Voka

Hans Maertens is the Managing Director of Voka. He has been working with the company for over 10 years. Hans started off studying Law and Communication at KU Leuven, the Catholic University of Leuven. From then on, he started his career at The Financial-Economic Time. 

He then went on to have a long career working within media and journalism, working first for Mediafin and then Roularta Media Group, two prominent Belgian multimedia groups. 

On top of his work for Voka, Maertens is also chairman and founder of VZW Cinema De Keizer in Lichtervelde. Cinema De Keizer is a protected monument and the oldest village cinema in Flanders.

Photo of Nico Demeester, General Secretary of Voka

The General Secretary is Niko Demeester. Niko studied Economics at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. He has strong experience in lobbying, communication and stakeholder management, having had a great impact on Flemish and federal coalition agreements in 2019 and 2014. He helped improve processes to structurally better cooperation within the Voka Alliance and with Flemish sector federations.

About the Voka Chamber of Commerce

  • DEFENDS

Whether you have just started out or have been in business for many years, as a Voka member, you always have someone on your side. Someone who strenuously upholds your interests as an entrepreneur everywhere – not only with local authorities but also at regional, national and European level.

  • UNITES 

You don’t do business alone. A dynamic and extensive network is essential to stay on the right course as an entrepreneur. Voka broadens your view and your network by organising activities for entrepreneurs and policymakers from the political and academic worlds. As a Voka member, you can also take part in network events, webinars and other learning networks.

  • UNDERPINS 

The business world changes constantly. This is the reason why Voka keeps you informed of all the new developments, measures and legislation that apply to your business. Need help with a difficult tax file or a permit? Based on up-to-date information as well as the advice of experts, you as an entrepreneur can quickly make the right decisions.

Lobbying

One of Voka’s main activities is lobbying, and they cover a whole range of areas.

COVID-19

A visual of the coronavirus

Many sectors have been hit hard by the corona crisis. Voka is doing everything it can to guide entrepreneurs through this crisis. They have been working hard with policymakers to take action and will continue to do so. Voka achieved 20 lobby results for Flemish entrepreneurs, at the Flemish and Federal levels.

Energy and Climate

Photo of windmills in a valley

The climate is a ‘hot’ topic. If we want to limit global warming to acceptable limits, we will have to focus on emission reductions in all social sectors . The Flemish industry already supplies the necessary solutions and products for this.

For example, in recent years it has already taken numerous measures to reduce its own emissions – both within and outside the supply chain. This produced great results. While the Flemish economy grew steadily, emissions from industry fell.

Trade and Brexit

Photo of a container yard from above

Trade is extremely important to the Flemish economy . Voka therefore advocates an ambitious EU trade policy. A European approach to trade in order to enforce better market access from the trading partners is also important for the Flemish economy. 

Innovation and Digitization

Image of vertical lines of digital numbers and letter

Innovation is an absolute must for the growth of your company. Innovation not only means bringing improvements to your products, but also exploring new materials, researching new business models, introducing new processes and much more.

Charges and Costs

Photo of a jar on its side with coins spilling out

Voka focuses on the domain ‘Expenses and costs’ based on various objectives:

  • A simplification of the target group policy. Voka released the VokaWijzer ‘Target group reductions’ from.
  • The realization of corporate tax reform.
  • Reformed wage standard law. The purpose of the standard is to counteract an excessive increase in wage costs, in order to increase the competitiveness of our economy. 
  • Since 1 July 2018, there has been a new measure regarding starter’s wages . For example, the recruitment of young workers aged 18 and under 21 will be promoted. They will do this by allowing employers to recruit them at a gross wage. This wage is lower than the current minimum wage. However, it won’t lead to a decrease in the net wage for the young people themselves. 
  • The realization of the tax shift. They wish to create a more transparent and simpler contribution system and improve the competitiveness of Flemish companies.

Environment and Surroundings

Photo of buildings in Brugge

Flanders has had to face various social challenges. Voka wants Flanders to remain attractive for companies to establish themselves and invest there. At the same time they want it to be a pleasant place to live and relax. 

Mobility

Photo of inside a train

Belgium is the champion of traffic jams. Voka has been advocating for an extension of road pricing to passenger cars and the maximum investment of proceeds in infrastructure. Infrastructure plays an important role, because every economic activity depends in one form or another on infrastructure.

Talent

Photo of three young men sat doing work in a business environment

In order to keep Flanders prosperous and competitive, the presence and development of talent is essential. This starts with education and the way in which Flanders develops this. The most important building blocks are laid here. Good education that connects to the labor market of today and tomorrow is the best way to achieve inclusive growth where everyone can actually work and contribute.

Welfare and Care

Photo of a hand holding a baby's hand

Voka focuses on the domain of wellbeing based on various areas:

  • Solidarity throughout society
  • The economic added value & the growth potential of healthcare
  • Innovation & business development in collaboration with industry knowledge centers & patient groups
  • Affordability & sustainability of healthcare systems
  • Well-being & health of employees within companies

Services: Advertising and Events

Voka offers a few services related to advertising and events.

Advertise on Voka’s online channels

Every month they bring a new online special about the trends of today and tomorrow. They do this with inspiring stories, podcasts, tips & tricks, online surveys, … in short, with the best that online content has to offer on the most diverse topics that concern entrepreneurs. 

Advertise in the Voka magazines

Voka offers a range of national and regional magazines which you can advertise in. Find the full list of these publications on their website.

You can also find loads of interesting information about global and regional business on their blog.

Voka have also created a range of digital dossiers about different topics, including digital transformation, energy and climate, innovation, smart education, and Brexit.

Become a partner of our events

Do you want to reach the absolute top in Flemish politics and business? Voka stands head and shoulders above the rest. They will be organizing numerous progressive events in 2021 to help you make the right connections.

How to become a member?

In order to become a member, you just need to fill out a form. A member of the Chamber of Commerce will get in touch with you.

How to do fast business with Voka members

If you are interested in expanding your business activities through their network, you can join them and take part in their networking events, seminars and conferences. You can download the online and public brochure of Voka.

Or, you can join CONNECTS and have direct access to clients and opportunities worldwide.

Members of the chamber have FREE access to the CONNECTS platform.

If you are not a member yet, you can start your free CONNECTS trial here

Key contacts: Get in touch with CONNECTS moderators

Moderators are responsible for specific networks or Chambers of Commerce in the platform. Moderators work directly for the Chambers of Commerce. 

They are there to help entrepreneurs. They can give advice about communications, information on companies or local markets. They can arrange introductions with other entrepreneurs. 

Whatever the need, they will be there to help. All platform users can book a free training with their moderators on “how to use” CONNECTS.

Entrepreneurs can directly contact any moderator from another Chamber of Commerce. This means they have access to local market information and trustworthy contacts from Chambers of Commerce throughout the world.

Here are the moderators for the Voka Chambers:

  • Antwerpen-Waasland – Luc Van Looveren
  • Flanders – Astrid Demeulenaere
  • Limburg – Ward Smits
  • Mechelen-Kempen – Petra Van Bouwelen
  • Oost-Vlaanderen – Jolyn De Baets
  • Vlaams-Brabant – Sophie Berlamont
  • West-Vlaanderen – Daphne Renier

Interested in our networks? Click here to have an overview.

There are plenty of different networks on CONNECTS which you can access as a member, and the list is always growing. Check them out here.

We also have a range of partners whom we are in constant communication with to improve the platform. 

If you’re interested in other Chambers of Commerce in Belgium, read about CCI Wallonie and BECI.

Location

The main Voka offices can be found at 154-158 Rue Royale, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium. Voka also has a Google My Business page where they have excellent ratings and where you can leave a review. 

Screenshot of Voka on Google My Business

Interested?

Interested in making your company grow and prosper? Want to have access to Voka’s network? Join CONNECTS and discover a world of new business opportunities you can trust.

Enjoy our latest offer: start your free trial. This offer includes:

  • The opportunity to connect with all our members
  • Validation by a moderator
  • Access to the companies and member search tool
  • View and create business opportunities
  • Online training on how to use the platform

Are you a member of a participating chamber? Join our business matchmaking platform for free.

If you are doing business in Belgium, you might also be interested in reading our article about BECI (the Brussels Chamber of Commerce) and CCI Wallonie (the Walloon Chamber of Commerce). You can also have a read of our article that gives an overview of the different chambers in Belgium.

Business is all about confidence in the future. At CONNECTS we believe we can only develop strong business relationships through trusted networks. 

We provide entrepreneurs with the best of both worlds, the digital and the personal user experience. The platform is a unique, simple, and effective tool for online B2B matchmaking.

Want to learn more about CONNECTS? Find us on Google maps! For more information, don’t hesitate to contact us or request a demo

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