European Business Summit. The EU-Africa Business Summit: Brussels Roundtable

Following the Royal Belgian Economic Mission to Morocco and the EU-Africa Business Summit 2018 in Marrakesh, this roundtable focus on the new perspectives on economic relations between African countries and the European Union. Despite the existing barriers, economic integration in Africa is underway and gathering speed. To move towards efficient collaboration between the two continents, a multi-sectorial dialogue must be consolidated at both the political and the commercial level. This morning session, consisting of several debates (followed by a networking lunch), will be dedicated to investment opportunities (M&A, Greenfield Investments, Public and Private Funds…) and trade exchanges that represent the African market in many areas such as digital, energy or agriculture.

Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs and Defense of the Kingdom of Belgium

The aim of this roundtable at the European Business Summit is the enforcement of a strong partnership between Europe and Africa and strengthening the dialogue between Africa and the European countries at a bilateral level, and amongst CEO’s, regional, financial and international organizations also. By gathering all stakeholders, and by bringing the concerns of Africa to Brussels and to the European decision makers, we support you towards a stronger partnership. Africa has a great importance for Europe and for Belgium. Everything that happens in Africa has a direct impact on Europe, and this in the two dimensions: the dimension of conflicts and immigration evolutions and the dimension of economic developments.

The further regional integration of Africa is by the way in the interest of the African population and in the interest of the European partners. The presence today of eminent representatives of different zones of Africa and equally of the pan-African institutions, testify our common engagement for mapping out measures in order to integrate different dimensions in your action in Africa and facilitating in this way further advancements in the Economic field. We will do everything to participate in the further economic development of Africa, that will firstly be undertaken by the private sector. That is reason why we have invested in Africa significantly, especially in the sector of transport and logistics. In field of alimentary growth, Belgium is offering a real expertise. This presence will extended with a further enlargement of the capacities: we have underlined through subsequent bilateral contacts the importance of the further development of the infrastructure for this.

But I also would like to underline here the necessity to respect certain norms and values: in this perspective I am looking forward to speak further on these subjects with my African colleagues. The Economic Missions that we organize together with representatives of the different federal levels of Belgium, to Côte d’Ivoire in 2017 and to Morocco in 2018 (we will go to Senegal in 2020) have also a great impact and importance. It was in the context of the Economic Mission of Belgium to Morocco that the idea was born to organize the event of today, in order to enforce the private sector in Africa: a goal that is at the heart of our policy towards Africa. And I thank my colleagues from Morocco, Rwanda and Benin very kindly for their presence here today in Brussels.

I am convinced that today’s roundtable will be a stepping stone towards further events, first and foremost the EU-African Business Summit that will take place in Marrakesh at the end of November but also later editions of the European Business Summit. In this way, we have the occasion to create a tradition of building bridges between political and institutional decision makers and the private sector and of identifying and addressing the joint challenges and existing opportunities for a strengthened cooperation.

Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development, European Commission

As you know, the relationship between our two continents is very important and hopefully we will even strengthen further this relation. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, launched in his State of the Union Address of 12th September 2018 an African-European Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs that of course proposes a paradigm shift for the relationship with our border partners. And the African-European Alliance is about building a true and fair partnership focused on mutual economic interest, stimulating investments and creating jobs in particular for youth. And the African-European Alliance for sustainable investment and jobs is a wide strategy that builds on a great relationship between the two partners and is based on a common agenda that is set by Africans and Europeans working together.

As this matter is strongly related to our competence in the European Commission, we are very active on developing the Alliance in our area and I would never have developed this policy cooperation without the help of my good friend, the African Union Commissioner on Agriculture, for which I am grateful. And just 2 months ago, the Commissioner and I published a report on a taskforce to rule Africa, which is a high-level panel of African and European experts that we set up together with the Commissioner for Development. The taskforce was asked for advice and will hopefully accelerate the sustainable development of food and farming sector in Africa through African-European Cooperation. In the report there are three key areas of our intervention, of the experts:

  1. The importance of sustainable natural resources and climate action;
  2. The need to transform African agriculture by developing a competitive and inclusive value change in the African food industry and food markets − this is the way to create jobs in Africa;
  3. The relevance of territorial approach of job creation and income growth in rural areas of Africa. The mission of the taskforce is to connect the food and rural agenda. We have in these fields a lot of government action but we want more business and b-to-b activity: this is the challenge that is identified in the report and in the recommendations. So they are clearly calling for us to do more, in a broader connection and collective action from the European farmers and the European people, business communities and governments, to build on the development experience in the Agro-food system. We are not referring to more related reports now.

What we are looking at here is setting up an EU-African Agro-food Platform that will give a key role to the private sector, bringing about the structural transformation in the African agro-food markets. Here is an opportunity for business men and investors to make value change in the implementation of the European Union External Investment Plan and it agro-business window. And I expect that with our meeting in Rome on 24th June, we will able to give more details on the implementation of this agro-food window of the External Investment Plan. The EBC Fund launched a new plan that involves a strengthening of farmers organizations, so that we have full partnerships between European Union farmers and African Farmers.

And thirdly the development of protected geographical indications: the support offered by the European Union is giving premium value to the products we produce. We feel that we can offer our technical expertise and our financial support to the policy leadership and the policy itself that will be developed by Africa in order to implement this comparative advantage in international markets that is designated around geographical indicated terms. Finally, the taskforce for rural Africa has acted on a good moment. Africa is growing in strategic importance to the European Agenda. For the EU a strong and stable and prosperous Africa is a win-win for everybody. The value creation in African agro-food system in my view is center to ensure a full security to improve the livelihoods, growing incomes and creating jobs and stability. And just a few months after the launch of the African-European Alliance for Sustainable Investments and Jobs, we are now moving already one step closer towards our common goals and objectives.

H.E. Victor Harrison, Commissioner for Economic Affairs of the African Union

I will explain you the present situation in Africa at the level of the continent. My colleagues will explain the situation in their country specifically. In 1991, the Abuja Treaty established a process of continental integration by combining all the regional economic communities and setting a strategy for 2063: a strategy with different continental aspirations for a peaceful and prosperous Africa, in growth and sustainable growth, unity and solidarity, for an Africa lead by Africans speaking with one voice. It is the aspiration of our continent.

For giving you a global overview of the economic situation in Africa: there has been a decade of growth but unfortunately this growth was not accompanied with a rise of employment. Of 12 million of youth searching a job in Africa, only 4 million of them find a job. So poverty still continues in Africa. So that is the present challenge. The African economies are still too vulnerable vis-a-vis external chocks. Some African countries have suffered heavily under these chocks, other African countries have built a great resilience and have shown numbers of growth up to 7%. What are we going to do? The strategy adopted by the Commission of the African Union is to bring a transformation of productivity.

This transformation of productivity will enable Africa to create jobs, to process raw matters and to increase its GDP. This will lead to a stronger growth and sustainable development. It is in this context that I call for a closer cooperation. In 2030, 43% of Africans will be in the middle class or in a higher class, this was only the case for 39,6% in 2013. This means and requires a rise in demands of consumption and services. This will equally mean a rise to 2.500 billion dollar for external consumption. And the sectors that will rise the most are the food industry, education, transport and agriculture.

In Africa, the private sector is the engine for growth. The private sector will allow us to create more employment and to fight poverty. This is the concept of the transformation of productivity. 30% of the mineral resources in the world can be found in Africa. However, this is not used and Africa has to import many goods because there is too little productivity in Africa and this is what we have to change. For millions of Africans, land and security is the most critical problem at the moment because Africa is also feeling a heavy impact of Climate Change. This hinders us to think about the problem of development. The future population of Africa will form the market of the future. So come to Africa and help transform the production and productivity in Africa itself. If we achieve and secure a proper level of local development, Africans will stay and not risk their lives in a boat for coming to Europe. Let us with the African countries stop to export our first materials without any product transformation, that is my message as Commission of the African Union for Economic Affairs.

Otherwise we don’t create added value. In 2 months we will launch a free trade zone inside the African Union, we have already 22 ratifications for agreeing on this. Such free trade zones already exist at regional levels, for the first time this will be established at continental level. For making a success out of this free trade zone, we will have to take many accompanying measures. So there are a lot of opportunities for the private sector, especially in infrastructure.

The connectivity of the African Capitals stays a problem: it is a paradox that the airline transport is evolving faster than the connections over land. So there are a lot of opportunities there. We have at this moment not a sufficient alimentary supply in Africa. So there are a lot of opportunities and possibilities to develop the agriculture, the education, the transport and the technology of formation and communication. Africa has not been at the meeting of the previous industrial revolutions, historically, but Africa will be at the historical meeting for the industry 4.0. The growth you can presently find in Africa is supported by the third sector.

It is in the industrial sector that many challenges are still open and in which many interesting opportunities for investors and productivity partners can be found. We need partners for these ambitions and we invite and welcome you most heartily.

H.E. Marcel Amon-Tanoh, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ivory Coast

The time has indeed come to turn the page and inverse the schemes in a way. The paradigm has changed. It is true that Africa has not yet found globally the good resources for its own development. It is true that Africa has not yet sufficiently mobilized its own resources. Immense investments are necessary for answering the needs of the population of Africa. It is true that is it has difficulties to put in place principles of good governance and efficient policies in the field of employment, youth and women’s empowerment. But more and more African countries are on the right way: plans are made and initiatives are taken while the challenges stay enormous.

The African Union at the one hand and the European Union at the other hand are questioning themselves about the efficiently of its actions vis-à-vis a continent with which it shares a complex history and a common social future. They both undertake strong efforts in trying to find the right answers to the migration crisis and the tragedies of the Mediterranean. Africa should respect in this Europe as its Northern neighbor and Europe should respect in this Africa as it Southern neighbor. Concerning European-African relations seen from the point of view of African leadership, we are called by the African people and African youth to formulate a new vision for the African continent in a stronger balance with Europe: a vision that should be sustainable and inclusive.

In Ivory Coast, we have seen a strong diversification of the productive sectors bringing the advantages of greater added value. Deloitte has named Ivory Coast not without reason the first African country in terms of attractiveness for investments. The potential of the economy of Ivory Coast offers enormous opportunities, amongst others in the agro-industry. And with a growth of 8% a year in 2012-2018, the opportunities in many sectors of Ivory Coast are still numerous. Ivory Coast is the economic engine of West Africa and is member of a vibrant regional free trade zone to which also Morocco aspires to join. In our view, the private sector will be the engine of the further development of the entire African Union.

H.E. Nasser Bourita, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Morocco

I appreciate deeply the theme of this roundtable: the renewal of the alliance between Africa and Europe. There is indeed already an alliance between Europe and Africa: cultural, historical, geographical, political. But the renewal of this alliance between Africa and Europe is essential because the world is changing quickly and jointly we have to find the right way to address this changed world. Africa nowadays can no longer be resumed by social and economic problems. Contrarily, Africa has the potential of becoming tomorrow the engine of global growth with its entrepreneurs, engineers, students, researchers, farmers and all the future leaders in this immense continent, and of course with the diversity of its natural richness. The numbers are speaking for itself.

We spoke about a present population of 1.1 billion people with 2.5 billion people on the horizon in 2050 with more than 1 billion of youth younger than 25 years: as we like to say, Africa will represent the youth in the World. On top of that, the African continent shows also a great potential in the field of agriculture with 2/3 of uncultivated grounds in the Arabic World. The mineral richness is also enormous. Africa has the total reserve of leather in the world, 2/3 of the reserve of diamond and 1/2 of the reserve of gold in the world. Africa is the region in the world with the second largest growth and amongst the 10 countries with strongest growth in the world, 6 are African. This African richness is too often exported out of Africa in a brut form without the added value brought by a production process in Africa itself and is in this way not participating in the economic growth necessary to answer the needs and demands of the African population. For example 3/4 of the supply of cacao in the World is coming from Africa but only 1% of the 110 billion dollar profits a year made by chocolate companies all over the world is made by African chocolate companies. Morocco is located between the two continents and will play fully its diplomatic role in facilitating the practical emergence of a new partnership between Europe and Africa and the emergence of a new and prosperous Africa.

Barbara Dietrich and Maarten Vermeir