Africa - Central Europe. Economic Cooperation Forum during EEC 2013

“We have to make up for lost time in Africa” was one of the main conclusions of the Africa – Central Europe Economic Forum, attended by the representatives of governments and business circles from both continents. The Forum was held in Katowice during the European Economic Congress 2013.
Four discussion panels were organized during the Forum, at which politicians, entrepreneurs and scientists debated on the best ways to consolidate economic cooperation between Central Europe and Africa.

The panellists emphasised the fast tempo of change in the African continent and argued that in the near future Africa would maintain its dynamic growth. They also remained convinced that closer cooperation between Central Europe and Africa would benefit both parties, and called attention to the fact that, after years of neglect, today’s historic chance should be used to the best advantage.

“We are interested in the rising markets; among them, Africa is the leading one”, said Zsolt Becsey, Economic Policy Coordinator of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

An important role in establishing contacts between the parties may be played by African graduates from Polish higher education institutions. Also the need to create jobs on both sides of the Mediterranean was stressed at the Forum.

Despite the good atmosphere prevailing in the cooperation, the parties do not know and understand each other very well. The panellists agreed that there were many areas in which the cooperation between Central Europe and Africa could develop, among them transport, logistics, agriculture, raw materials and energy sectors.

They also mentioned the fact that as a consequence of the colonial past the relations between Western Europe and Africa are constrained by the barrier of political correctness, and that cooperation between Poland and other Central European countries looked more promising in this context. This became very clear during the European Economic Congress, the debates and discussions at which had an open character.

Similarities between the historic experiences of the African and Central European countries were also discussed, as both were ruled by centrally governed economies after World War II, only to undergo the transformation to full capitalism at a later stage.

“Difficult moments in history, experienced by both African countries and Central Europe, are behind the fact that we have similar feelings towards some issues. They bring us closer together” was the assessment of Mahmood Ahmed Ibrahim, the African Union’s Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy.

The need for personal contacts

The panellists also agreed that one could not run business in Africa merely by electronic mail, fax and telephone. Africans pay special attention to personal relationships and they expect their contractors to comply. Our African guests declared that their continent was increasingly safe, with better and friendlier legal environments for investors.

“Senegal is doing everything to strengthen its state institutions in such a way at to make investors feel safe”, declared Diene Farba Sarr, General Director of APIX, an investment promoting agency in Senegal.

Polish entrepreneurs presented the effects of their undertakings in Africa so far, and experts were in no doubt that the demand in Africa would be continually growing in the coming years, especially in the consumer goods market. They also pointed out that the demand for education in Africa is considerable, which can translate into the success of any endeavour in this area.

Politicians, on the other hand, declared the will to develop cooperation and coordinate the activities of all the Visegrad Group countries for the expansion of business in the African territory.

Both Polish and African panellists said that out of the BRIC countries, it is only Brazilian companies that enjoy renown in the African markets, whereas Russia, India and China are associated with lower quality goods and unreliable contractors involved in large investments. This might mean that there is a chance for a successful expansion of Polish and European companies, which should try to compete with higher quality products rather than the lowest price.

There are some areas, however, in which it is worth following the BRIC example. “There is no business without sources of financing. The BRIC countries promised to create a development bank for Africa, which is a good direction”, said Killion Munyama, a Zambian born member of the Polish Parliament.

Intelligent support

Finally, Forum participants came to the conclusion that development aid for Africa is still needed but that it should be provided in an intelligent way, guaranteeing that it would reach the end user in a way which ensured its maximum benefit to business and local communities.

The discussants staged a number of presentations devoted to the economies of African countries and conditions for developing business there.

The Polish Ministry of the Economy presented a programme entitled “Go Africa”, designed to encourage local firms to develop business in Africa. The programme comprises the economic missions accompanying Polish state visits and a number of informational and educational initiatives targeting entrepreneurs.

Among the presenters were Angola and Rwanda, which enjoy considerable economic growth and continually improve their positions in various business rankings.

The representatives of both countries said that they hoped that, owing to the involvement of Polish companies, they could focus on the spheres of economy which had not developed very strongly so far.

“More than anything we wish to develop the construction and energy sectors”, declared Prof. Anastase Shyaka, President of the Management Board of the Rwanda Governance Board.

The presentation of Western African countries focused on the fact that Europe was the largest commercial partner of the region, an encouragement, perhaps, for more a daring involvement of Polish companies.

Look at foto galleries

May 13

Africa - Central Europe. Economic Cooperation Forum - inauguration

May 14

Part 1: Economic and political cooperation between the European Union and Africa

Part 2: Economic cooperation between Central European countries and African countries

Part 3: Development policy of the EU with regard to Africa. Support that stimulates both the economy and the enterprise

Part 4: Presentations

See also: Go global! The world, Europe and Africa. The time has come for a new deal

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Conclusions from the 1st Africa – Central Europe Economic Cooperation Forum

During this year’s European Economic Congress, the event that met with particularly keen interest was the 1st Africa – Central Europe Economic Cooperation Forum.

Now, we would like to present the conclusions flowing from that event and put them into perspective.

In a world afflicted with economic slowdown, the most dynamically evolving region is the Sub-Saharan Africa.

It is a promising market due to its population and demographic issues. The pace of economic development in some countries of the African continent is impressive. The African middle class is evolving and as a result, the consumption of more technologically advanced and quality goods or services is also increasing. Political stability also solidifies on the African continent.

Europe keeps discovering Africa anew, but it needs the idea of a new partnership that would aim at the development of African countries and societies, simultaneously creating new possibilities for the European industry.

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