The Invest Opportunity In Belgium


Welcome to Belgium. A small country in Western Europe and a great place for investment. In this paper I will be discussing the main reasons why companies should invest in Belgium. Along with some recommended sectors and other facts that might be of interest for investors. This paper was made for the European Commission as my first project for my internship.

Open economy

Belgium has an extremely open economy. It exports more than 80% of its national GDP. In 2017, their total GDP was 494.733 billion US$. This means that they exported 430 billion US$ in 2017. So it’s no wonder that Belgium was placed 11th in the top exporting countries in 2017, just behind countries like: the UK, Italy, …. However, before countries like: Canada, Mexico, Russia, ….The top 10 goods exported included: dyes, vegetable preparations, footwear, …. In the top 3 there were: iron and steel: $4.7 billion, pharmaceuticals: $8 billion, and plastics as well as plastic articles: US$10.9 billion. So if you want to invest in Belgium, investing in these sectors is recommended. Some well-known Belgian companies include: AB-InBev (the world’s largest manufacturer of beer), Solvay (chemicals and plastics) and Delhaize (food retailer). In 2017, Belgium was ranked 3th on the KOF index of Globalization. Only the Netherlands and Ireland had more open economies. The KOF index of Globalization is a ranking of the most global countries based on the 3 dimensions of globalization: economic, social and political. This means that on all 3 necessary parts of globalization, Belgium scores astonishing. Belgium trades a lot with foreign countries (this can be explained by the great infrastructure in Belgium). On the social dimension, many people migrate to Belgium, a large amount of international students come to Belgium (universities in Belgium are among the best in the world) in addition, a bunch of large corporations have headquarters in Belgium. Finally, Belgium also houses a number of embassies.

Setting up your business

In Belgium it is very easy to start up your own company. You must go through 4 stages: choosing the type of company (select a company form that suits the size of the future business and the available share capital). Next, you open a bank account (every company In Belgium is required to have a corporate bank account). Thereafter, you have to draw up the Articles of Association (These are the legal documents the company needs). These must then be given to a notary, who will make them accessible to the public). Lastly, the company has to register itself at the Crossroad Bank for enterprises (here the company can submit all its documents, the registration number will become the VAT number). You only need to fill in 6 administrative formalities. If you want help, you can go to 8 different one-stop shops who can guide you through the uncertainties of entrepreneurship. Belgium is also very entrepreneurship friendly. The country ranks 11th for entrepreneurship in Europe and 17th in the entire world. Before countries like: Finland, Norway and Luxembourg. But after countries like: Austria, Germany, the Netherlands.

The Belgian employees

The Belgian workforce is famous for its adaptability along with its analytical way of thinking. Many of the Belgian citizens have continued to study after their secondary education. Belgium has 16 universities. The country has built its own system of high-quality academical institutions. There are 3 official languages in Belgium: Dutch, French and German. So the majority of the population can speak at least 2 languages. Sometimes they even speak multiple foreign languages like Spanish or English. They speak in different tongues without any problems. Belgian workers are the 4th most productive according to OECD. In total, there are about 4.6 million workers in Belgium. Each hour of work adds $69,7 to the Belgian GDP. In Belgium the average workweek is 29 hours, however a company may alter this depending on its requirements.

Global value chains (GVC’s)

Belgium is the number 1 exporting economy by GVC participation rate, with a score of 78%. The difference between this index and the total net export, is the fact that total net export also includes products created in the country itself. Whereas GVC participation only includes imported goods. Products and services get imported into a country. When they have arrived, the country fabricates them. In order to produce a semi-finished or finished good. Then these goods get exported again to another country. The amount of goods that get imported and exported make up the 2 main parts of the GVC participation rate. So Belgium exported the most goods to a third economy in 2017. Belgium scores much better in this field than just net export (where it was ranked 17th). The reason for Belgium’s high score can be found in its commercially advanced ports. Belgium beats many countries with major ports themselves, like: China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Netherlands.

Great location

Belgium lies in the heart of Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France. The UK is just across the English Channel. All of these are within a radius of 500 km or less of Belgium. Cities within this radius include: Paris, Luxembourg, Düsseldorf and many others. Countries within a 1000 km radius include: Italy, Poland, Austria, …. There are about 500 million people within an 800 km radius. These people alone make up 60% of Europe’s total purchasing power. So there is definitely a vast market within a relatively short distance. Not only that, but all these cultures can also help you develop your product.

Cultural diversity: an ideal test market

In this section, we will compare the Belgian culture with product development. We will work according to Hofstede’s model of culture: individualism, power distance (or hierarchy), Masculinity, Uncertainty avoidance and Confucian dynamic (or long-term orientation)


Commodities tend to develop at best in individualistic countries. Belgium is a very individualistic country. Products go through many phases in their development life cycle. It has been proven that products sell better during their initiation phase in an individualistic society. So Belgium is a great market during the first stages of product development.

Power distance

All of Belgium’s neighbouring countries have a low power distance orientation, with the exception of France and Belgium itself. In low power distance countries, a decentralizing approach towards product development can be very successful. This is a more ‘organic’ approach, because there is little hierarchy in this process. While in countries with high power distance, a centralizing approach is desirable. This is because in centralization, the hierarchy is obvious. In centralization, it is more ‘machine’ oriented. In Belgium, where a more centralized orientation is accepted, new product development is very much supported by top management. The research shows that a more centralized approach is more effective. Which makes Belgium a great starter for your product to mature, so you can set your sights on Western Europe afterwards.


Belgium has an average score on this segment of culture. High masculinity countries are more focused on work and money. While lesser masculine countries (or feminine countries) tend to focus more on the group harmony with the goal establishing a positive work environment. A feminine culture is desirable during the integration phase of a product, a masculine culture is more implementation oriented. As the country doesn’t score too high, nor too low. It can be seen as an ideal place to develop a product in. The product can be developed in Belgium, and sold to its masculine neighbours (UK, Germany, …).

Uncertainty avoidance

Belgium scores very high on this aspect. Countries with high uncertainty avoidance like to have everything planned out, while maintaining control. This makes mass-production a recommendation, as it supports the organizational hierarchy, focuses on detail and the development of a prototype.

Confucian dynamic (long-term orientation)

Unlike the previous aspects, long-term orientation has 2 different poles: a positive and a negative one. During both the initiation and the implementation phase, the positive pole (or high long-term orientation) tends to focus on the action as well as the future of the product. While the negative pole (or short-term orientation) focuses on preservation of the past and the present. Belgium alongside its neighbours score high in this aspect. Meaning that during a product’s life cycle, the business should look towards the future of the product.

According to Nakata, and Sivakumar (1996), ‘some cultures may be more adept than others in one phase of the new product development process and are thus more effective choices for that phase.’ Belgium’s neighbouring countries are very individualistic, although usually less hierarchical. These countries are very valuable for the initiation phase of your product, an excellent early market. Belgium is a great place for creating your product, mainly because of the great workers that the Belgians are. So it is recommended to produce and start a business in Belgium, while selling to its neighbours.

Transport and logistics

Belgium has excellent infrastructure and connections to the rest of the European continent. The most notable way for goods to enter is the Port of Antwerp. The port is the 15th best container port worldwide. From the port your goods can be transported by 4 different transport ways: inland shipping, railway, roads and pipelines.

The Port of Antwerp

  • Each year up to 102,3 million tonnes of goods pass through the port by inland shipping. That equals to 234 containershuttles per week that go from the port to 85 European destinations in 7 countries (mostly the Netherlands, France and Germany).
  • 24 million tonnes of goods get transported yearly by railroads to 32 destinations in 13 countries. This can go as far as Athens or even Moscow.
  • From the port 48 different product pipelines go to 4 different countries, mainly: the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France. In the port itself 1000 km of pipelines alone can be found.
  • The port of Antwerp is the second most important short sea port of Europe. Meaning that from the port the ships will depart again, but won’t go into deep waters this time. The main destinations are: the UK, Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea, Northern-Africa and the Middle-East. Every year 10.727 short sea containerships depart from the port, that equals to 100,5 million tonnes of goods.


  • Infrabel is a Belgian government-owned company that maintains and upgrades the Belgian railways. It works hand in hand with the National Railway Company of Belgium (NMBS/SNBC).
  • Over 12,500 people work for Infrabel in order to guarantee that the 3,500 km long railways in Belgium stay operational.
  • In 2007, the company liberalised international transport of freight. Meaning that from 2007 onwards, no international companies had to pay for using the Belgian railway system anymore. 3 years later, passenger transportation was also liberalised. This allowed the company to get more market share across Europe.

Facts about location

Since Belgium is part of the Schengen Area, there are no trade restrictions at all, making it easy to get from one part of Europe all the way to the other. There are numerous transport networks leading to many areas in Belgium. Without any traffic jams, you can get from Antwerp to Brussels in 20 minutes. You are allowed to drive 120 km/h or 75mph on the Belgian highways. According to Vandenbulcke, Steenberghen, and Thomas (2009), ‘In Belgium itself, many vehicles have multiplied their number of kilometres over the years. In 1980, 48 billion kilometres was travelled on the Belgian roads. By 2005, this number was doubled to 95 billion.’

Belgium lies completely in the ‘Blue Banana’. This an area that includes: the Southeast of the UK, Western Germany, Eastern France, Northern Spain (until Madrid), the Benelux, Northern Italy and Switzerland. This area has an excellent logistics distribution system. It is connected to many key hubs in Europe and includes numerous major European distribution centers. 7 of the Belgian provinces alone made up the top 10 most attractive European regions for distribution and logistics in 2006. And Flanders and Wallonia (the 2 largest regions in Belgium) made up the Nbr. 1 and Nbr. 2 respectively, if you didn’t count the provinces separately.

An international decision-making center

Belgium is home to countless multinationals and European institutes. The country was one of the founding members of the European Union and the EU headquarters are situated in Brussels. Brussels (more notably Haren) is also home to the NATO headquarters. In Belgium itself, multinationals like Toyota, Microsoft, IBM and many others have set up headquarters all across the nation. Because of all this decision-making in 1 country, Belgium has become one of the largest communities of foreign diplomats and journalists in the world. Not to mention the cultural diversity and multinationals in its capital, Brussels. The city is able to attract a large amount of professionals like: academics, experts, lecturers, …. The Belgian politicians have always played a crucial role in the development of the European Union. Widening and deepening European integration has always been a major item on the Belgian agenda. This proves that the European goals are very close to the heart of Belgium.

European projects in Belgium

In order to stimulate the European open economy, the EU has given the task to many countries to invest in more cross-border trade through infrastructure and projects. Belgium has been doing an excellent job at realizing these projects.

Fluxys Belgium and Creos Luxembourg

Belgium and Luxembourg were the first countries to allow free gas trade. Before, an entry/exit system was required. This meant that suppliers of gas had to pay an exit fee in order to leave Belgium, and an entry fee to enter Luxembourg. Now, a new system has been introduced. Thanks to the collaboration between the gas transmission system operators (TSO) of both Luxembourg (Creos Luxembourg) and Belgium (Fluxys Belgium), the Belgian and Luxembourg gas markets have merged. Meaning that the previous entry/exit system is no longer operative, and gas suppliers can travel between the 2 countries without any problem. As the markets have merged together, more competition has become inevitable. Over 70 suppliers operate in the current market. Thanks to the links between these countries’ neighbours (the Netherlands, Germany, the UK and France) the chances of price isolation have decreased drastically. So better prices can be offered to the customers.


Similarly, a collaboration between Fluyxs Belgium and GRTgaz (a French TSO) has been introduced. Both companies have started working on a virtual interconnection point called: Virtualys, in order to facilitate cross-border trading. It is also part of the EU’s plan to enhance competition and gas-to-gas price formation. Before, suppliers had to book a connection point between Belgium and France. This was inefficient, considering there were many connection points. With the creation of Virtualys, only 1 connection point remains. Virtualys is the first virtual interconnection point in Northwest Europe and will support further development of the French and Belgian gas trading places.

Trans-European Transport Networks

The European commission has started building many ways for transportation throughout Europe. These are the so called: Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T). In total, there are 9 priority axes and projects. Belgium is involved in 3 of these projects: the North Sea-Baltic corridor, the Rhine-Alpine corridor, and the North Sea-Mediterranean corridor. These corridors provide railways for freights and passengers to be transported all across Europe.

The North Sea-Baltic corridor starts in the port of Antwerp and goes all the way to Kaunas, Lithuania. The corridor is expected to further develop to Latvia, Estonia and Finland. The Rhine-Alpine corridor runs through many major Belgian cities like: Zeebrugge, Antwerp, and Ghent. The corridor starts in Amsterdam and ends in Genoa, Italy. The North Sea-Mediterranean corridor goes through the Belgian cities of Zeebrugge, Kortrijk, Antwerp, Brussels, and many others. It connects the UK and Ireland with Western-Europe, The corridor goes from Cork, Ireland, to Marseille, France.

So the European Commission has lots of projects to be accomplished. Belgium has proven itself to be both a team player and a initiator. The collaboration with Luxembourg is a great example of how other European countries should work together. The realization of the Trans-European Transport Networks would not be possible if Belgium hadn’t tied its major ports and cities to the network.


Belgium is an excellent opportunity for investment. You have many sectors to choose from, like: plastics, automobiles, gas, and many others we’ve discussed. The aspects of the Belgian culture and infrastructure help with the creation of value. However, Belgium is open to every innovative idea, and provides the necessary equipment needed. It is up to the individual to choose in which sector he/she would like to invest. This paper clarified some key elements required for investment and how Belgium uses these to its advantage.

07 July 2022
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now