Belgium is a small country. The gross domestic product (GDP) for 2018 amounted to €459.8 billion. This represents 2.9% of the European Union’s GDP. Economic growth in 2018 was 1.5% and fell to 1.4% in 2019. Growth is expected to be 1.2% in 2020 and 1.0% in 2021. This growth is almost entirely due to the Belgian market for (IT) services. The trade balance was negative in 2018 and is expected to remain so in the coming years.
A competitive Country
The Services Industry is becoming more and more important to the Belgium economy. In 2018, business services accounted for 56.5% of total gross value added. The industrial sector accounts for 13.8% and the construction sector for 5.3%.
Belgium ranks 27th among the 63 most competitive countries according to the Institute for Management Development (IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2019) and 22nd according to the World Economic Forum (Global Competitiveness Report 2019).
The IT sector consists of more than 40,300 companies, of which approximately 6,300 are one-man businesses. The largest part (94.5%) belongs to the service sector. More than 72% of the IT staff works for companies engaged in “design and programming of computer programs, computer consultancy and related activities“. Telecom companies are in second place.
The number of staff in the Belgian IT sector in 2018 was 106,600. This is an increase of 3.8% compared to 2017. In the period 2014 – 2018, the number of IT staff increased by 14.2% annually.
The largest growth came from the activities: ‘data processing, web hosting and related activities; web portals’ (+43,6 %) and ‘design and programming of computer programs, computer consultancy and related activities’ (+33,4 %).
The coming years
Growth in IT Services
Technology: Outperforming Europe
The Belgian technology sector outperformed the European average in 2019.
The growth of companies providing IT solutions was 6%. This is because Belgian companies are going through the digital transformation at a rapid pace.
There is a large number of start-ups. This mainly concerns one-man businesses (Consultants without staff, carrying out project work).
For 2020, Graydon expects the Belgian market for IT services to grow by 2.3%. Companies are increasingly turning to external consultants. Opportunities lie in the field of process optimization, blockchain and IoT (Internet of Things).
A large part of the new providers in the market are starting one man businesses.
Staff shortage is a major obstacle
What does this information mean to you?
- Belgium has an open economy with companies that see their potential growth hampered by a shortage of skilled IT personnel
- In marketing terms, Belgium is a “Red Ocean”: Unless you, as a foreign company, provide new or innovative IT services for this market, you have to work in a market where borders have been defined and accepted. The competitive rules of the game are well known. Foreign companies have to surpass the competition
- The expected growth in the IT sector and the simultaneous acute shortage of well-trained IT staff indicate that only an inflow of well-trained IT staff will allow for this growth
What can you do to increase your chances?
- Demonstrate the availability of well-trained IT personnel (CVs, company profiles, references)
- Build relationships with companies that focus on process optimization, blockchain and IoT and IT service providers in general (they do have customers, but a shortage of well-trained IT personnel)