It is a fact: regional integration in Africa is now on. Since November 2018 and the signing by African leaders in Kigali of the agreement providing for the establishment of a continental free trade area, several actors, including the African Union, have mobilized States to accelerate the process. The sixth Forum international for the development of Africa (FIAD), which took place on March 14 and 15 in Casablanca, Morocco, marked a new milestone in the African integration agenda. Indeed, thehe organizers of this forum, including the pan-African bank Attijariwafa bank, the African investment fund Al mada with the Africa Development Club, have chosen to carry out their work around the theme: "When East meets West".
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"When East meets West"
With no less than 14 regional blocks, supposed to represent as many spaces for the free movement of people, goods and services, the obstacles faced by companies operating in different African countries are legion. But three regions stand out from the crowd: the ECOWAS where interregional trade represents 9,4%, the East African Community (EAC) has 12% and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), 13%. “The ECOWAS has been working since its creation to harmonize the regulations of the different countries. We have succeeded in creating a common customs area, in abolishing import and export taxes, ”explained Mamadou Traoré, commissioner in charge of industry and private sector promotion at ECOWAS. On the other hand, with its rapidly expanding economies and business-friendly governments, the East African region is emerging as an El Dorado for international companies seeking expansion. And the rest of the continent should benefit from this dynamic.
Making the institutional agenda concrete
For Mohammed El Kettani, CEO of Attijariwafa bank, "of course, the institutional agenda is moving in the direction of integration" with 44 of the 54 African countries already participating in more than one regional economic community with varying degrees of integration and considerable potential for strengthening, the candidacy of Kingdom of Morocco to integrate the ECOWAS, the African continental free trade agreement in progress, "but we should further accelerate the pace thanks to concrete East-West projects which show the way", he notably pleaded. In his opening remarks, the host of this event considered by many to be the African Davos continued: “Africa will thus be able to form the basis of a competitive continental market and to emerge as a recognized business center at the level international, offering investors, SMEs, large companies, larger markets with efficient economies of scale and positive spillovers between landlocked and coastal countries. »Launched in 2010, and being part of an annual cadence since 2015, the Africa Development Forum has established itself as the benchmark platform for dialogue, promotion of investments and intra-African trade. "This will require leading a pace of determined and proactive reforms, through the reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers, the development of connectivity and logistics infrastructure, but also to address the issues of labor mobility and integration of financial markets ”, explained El Kettani.
La Sierra Leone, a textbook case
Before giving way to the guest of honor and a real textbook case, Sierra Leone and its president. This small English-speaking country is geographically located in West Africa. Julius Maada Bio, made it clear that “as leaders, we must promote political stability through equality and fairness and above all improve the business environment in order to have more investors for the implementation implementation of our development programs. One does not go without the other. In particular, we must solve the problem of corruption, manage our natural resources well, integrate our economies more fully, and attract more credible investors by eliminating the laws which repel them. The goal is to allow the diversification of our economies, a guarantee of their resilience. "
The emergence of Africa, a priority for the private sector
Opposite, the private sector is seething. Coming in large numbers, the entrepreneurs are very concerned by the progress of integration in the field. “The world is not there to give you gifts. It is up to you to take the initiative, to see which sector, which industry in which you have strengths, an advantage, so that your competitiveness is better ... Several countries are working to find complementarity. This globalization can be a great opportunity for us if we manage to organize ourselves, ”says Moulay Hafid Elalamy. “The private sector is much more aware than public actors of the capacity to create value in the continent,” he explained. “It is time for States to support these operators, and not the other way around. If we close the door to these levers, how can we create jobs? »Asks the Moroccan Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital Economy. To give a concrete example of the difficulties, Kelvin Tan, secretary general of the Asia Africa Chamber of Commerce, explained: “Today, if I take a vessel from Tanger Med by Suez and all the way to the China, it takes about 30 days. But customs-related delays double the time it takes for goods to come from Asia to West Africa. "There is a need to bring the infrastructure gap in Africa and Asia into its own context," he explained. “It's companies with engineers from Vietnam, while other products are packaged in Singapore and so on. Many examples of economically integrated regions show the potential for Africa. "
Prices for example
For this 6th edition, considering the current global economic reconfigurations, the challenges and the development opportunities of the continent, as well as the African Continental Free Trade Area project, renowned economic experts and leading political decision-makers have come together. working to examine the driving forces behind intra-regional integration in terms of the creation of values and opportunities through two plenaries and different panels. On the sidelines of the Forum, two major events were organized: the South-South cooperation trophies - which reward three African companies, in recognition of their contribution to the development of intra-African trade -, and the young entrepreneur's trophies - which aim to reward bright young African entrepreneurs applying for several categories of competitions.
For this year, the first “Platinum” prize was won by Elsewedy Electric, an Egyptian group specializing in the electrical industry and the development of renewable energies. The second and third prizes, "Gold" and "Silver", were awarded respectively to Ebomaf, a Burkinabese construction and public works company (BTP) and operating in several countries of the West African sub-region, and to Infolog, a company Mauritanian specialist in the field of IT and also present in several African countries.
Young entrepreneurs did not remain on the sidelines, so the first prize was awarded to Oussama Abbou, a Franco-Moroccan, co-founder and director of Smart perspective, a company that “developed a system that collects data from individuals nearby. and analyzes them to adapt the content displayed on store screens in real time ”.
The second prize of this challenge, placed under the aegis of the Al Mada Foundation, went to the Moroccan Yassine Es-said, founder and director of SmartOn, an integration platform for the management and analysis of objects in real time, that everyone, without any technical knowledge, can use. As for the 3rd prize, it was awarded to Gael Egbidi, a young Moroccan-Togolese co-founder and operating director of Bassit IT, operating in the field of customer relations.
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