Chambers of Commerce

The 8 Voka Chambers: Flanders Essential Business Network

March 16, 2022

Voka Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Flemish Network of Companies, is the largest business 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. The Flemish Economic Association and the eight regional Chambers of Commerce in Flanders decided to cooperate. As part of an alliance, they formed Voka.

Today Voka consists of Voka vzw and six Voka Chambers of Commerce. There is also Voka Metropolitan for Flemish companies in Brussels.

The eight regional Chambers of Commerce are:

  • Antwerp-Waasland
  • Brussels metropolis
  • Limburg
  • East Flanders
  • West Flanders
  • Flemish Brabant
  • Mechelen-Kempen
  • Voka national

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.

Currently, more than 18.000 businesses work with Voka. It represents more than 65% of the private employment in Flanders and Brussels.

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 business in Flanders.

Management

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. Here 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 as the successor of Paul Kumpen.

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. He worked first for Mediafin and then Roularta Media Group, two prominent Belgian media 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.

Other chambers have their own managing director:

  • In the Antwerp office, Luc Luwel is currently the Managing Director;
  • For the Brussels Metropolis, the role was given to Jan Van Doren;
  • Johann Leten is the Managing Director for the Limburg Chamber;
  • In the Ghent office, Geert Moerman is in charge as Managing Director;
  • Bert Mons is currently the Managing Director for the West Flanders office.
Nico Demeester, General Secretary of Voka

The General Secretary is Niko Demeester. Niko studied Economics at the KU Leuven. 

He has strong experience in lobbying, communication and stakeholder management. He 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

Voka 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. Voka strenuously upholds your interests as an entrepreneur everywhere. This means not only with local authorities but also at regional, national and European levels.

Voka has a strong and influential voice in Flanders. One of its purposes is to facilitate dialogue between entrepreneurs and (international) politicians.

Result unites

As a Voka member, you are surrounded and helped by Voka. 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 statesmen from the political and academic worlds.

As a Voka member, you can also take part in network events, webinars and other learning networks.

Building a strong network of relationships helps you grow your business. This will facilitate the work of your business development manager.

Voka supports

The business world is constantly changing. This is 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? You as an entrepreneur can quickly make the right decisions. With Voka, they will be based on up-to-date information as well as the advice of experts.

Lobbying

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

COVID-19

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 politicians to take action and will continue to do so.

Voka achieved 20 lobby results for Flemish entrepreneurs. 12 of them are at the federal level and 8 at the Flemish level.

Energy and Climate

Windmills in a valley

The climate is a ‘hot’ discussion. If we want to limit global warming, 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. This was applied both within and outside the supply chain.

This produced great results. While the Flemish economy grew steadily, emissions from industry fell.

The ‘E’ in ESG stands for ‘Environmental’. Nowadays investors take care of these aspects in order to consider an investment.

Trade and Brexit

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 international trade in order to enforce better market access from the trading partners is also important for the Flemish economy. 

If you want to know more about how international trade can help your business grow, you can read our article on international trade. An important aspect to be considered is the impact of Brexit on international trade and business. 

Innovation and Digitization

Vertical lines of digital numbers and letter

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

If you want to deepen your knowledge of digital transformation, you can check our article on how to boost digital transformation.

Charges and Costs

Expenses and cost

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

  • A reduction of the target group policy. Voka released the VokaWijzer ‘Target group reductions’ from;
  • The realization of corporate tax reform;
  • A reformation of wage standard law. The purpose of the standard is to counteract an excessive increase in wage costs. In this way, the competitive power of our economy increases;
  • 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 completion of the tax shift. They wish to create a more transparent and simpler contribution system and improve the competitive power of Flemish companies.

Environment and Surroundings

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

Inside of 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

Coworkers in a business environment

In order to keep Flanders prosperous and competitive, the presence and development of talent are essential. This starts with education and the way in which Flanders develops this. The most important building blocks are laid here.

A good education that connects to the labour market of today and tomorrow is the best way to achieve inclusive growth where everyone can actually work and contribute.

Welfare and Care

Childcare and welfare

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

  • Mutual support throughout society;
  • The economic added value & the growth potential of healthcare;
  • Innovation & business development in collaboration with industry knowledge centres & patient groups;
  • Access & sustain to healthcare systems;
  • Well-being & health of employees within companies.

Services: Advertising and Events

Voka offers a few services related to advertising and events. Networking events are important to grow a business. 

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, they work 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. The full list of these publications is on their website.

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

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

Become a partner of their events

With Voka, you can reach the absolute top in Flemish politics and business. Voka stands head and shoulders above the rest. They will be organizing numerous progressive events 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

Are you interested in expanding your business activities through their network? Join them and take part in their networking events, seminars and conferences. The online and public brochure of Voka can be downloaded.

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. 

Voka's Google My Business

Communities

They even have communities within the different Chambers. The communities are divided according to a theme. Some examples of themes are Family Business, Personal Skills and Sustainable Business.

You can filter your search according to the theme, the region or specific keywords.

An example is ‘Jong Voka’, dedicated to young entrepreneurs. There is also ‘Voka Ladies’ that brings together female entrepreneurs and executives. 

The aim of these communities is to advise, inspire and create connections. They might become important networks for entrepreneurs.

CONNECTS Communities

At CONNECTS, you can find a broad range of communities to join. Within the CONNECTS communities, you can find both companies and Chambers of Commerce and get inspired.

The Chambers of Commerce come from everywhere, for instance, there are British chambers of commerce.

Being part of one business community or more is a key factor to build a strong business network. By joining the right community, you have access to new important connections.

Within communities, you can share information, have 1:1 chats, share business information, and organise meetings and events.

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. 

The job of moderators is to help you with anything you need. All member companies 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.

There are plenty of different networks on CONNECTS that you can access as a member, and the list is always growing. The complete list of our networks is on the website.

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

Interested in CONNECTS?

Interested in growing your business? Join CONNECTS and discover a world of new business opportunities you can trust.

In this way, you will have access to a wider network. Business development helps you grow your business through a network.

We offer a free trial to new members.

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 and CCI Wallonie. You can also have a read of our article that gives an overview of the different chambers in Belgium.

You can join business communities and improve your international trade network.

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

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