On November 8th, 48 speakers, 24 ambassadors, and 389 participants from 170 different African and Nordic companies and 30 countries joined forces to discuss how blue opportunities, especially within the maritime, energy and agriculture sector, can be better utilised to create effective and sustainable growth across the African continent. About 90 percent of Africa’s exports and imports are already conducted by sea, yet the continents overall share of world trade remains small.
During her speech, HE Søreide emphasised that “investments opportunities in Africa are plenty”, and that today “some of the largest business opportunities in Africa are blue”, something that the Nordic countries have had great experience with, from the Vikings to the shipping industry.
Key speaker HE President Patrice Talon welcomed the chance to come and share information about Africa and Benin, a continent often misrepresented in the media. He said that the continent has seen extraordinary changes in short time, and that it is important to remember that African countries have different opportunities to offer, different environments and different conditions for investment.
Together with good governance, strong local communities and good education systems, it is “paramount that private investment, before aid, is seen as the catalyser for growth in Africa”, and highlighted Benin’s coastal line, agriculture and tourism, as potential areas to invest in.
The first plenary session also included presentations by Razia Khan on Africa’s economic outlook and Gillian Parker on the Africa outlook risk. The Nigerian presence was a source of enthusiasm for participants, with Ambassador H.E. Mr. Musa Ilu Muhammad leading the dialogue with prospective investors.
Starting off plenary session two, Paul Holthus, CEO of the World Ocean Council, termed the ocean “the liquid medium that brings us all together”, and presented how the ocean represents all sets of business communities by the costal lines, from shipping to fisheries, aquaculture to seabed mining. By 2050 for instance, 15 percent of the EUs energy demand will come from ocean energy, and he maintained that Africa “has enormous potential in this blue economy”.
Another main key speaker of the second plenary session was Dr Mo Ibrahim, Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. He focused on the role of government and the rule of law to help spur conducive business environments, and shared concerns over the education system that he feels has stagnated. When asked about what advice he would give to Norwegian companies he urged companies to “take into consideration the great young population growth, get people on board”, education and jobs are all ingredients for sustainable growth.
After the plenary sessions, participants and guests could choose between four different networking lunches, representing different topics and networking opportunities.
Coming back from lunch, participants then joined one of three parallel sessions. The Maritime session focused on ports and waste management, the Agribusiness session on aquaculture, fisheries and agriculture, and the Energy session on electricity production and demand, reliable energy and transport.
Each parallel session had between 50-100 participants and there was room for questions and answers, dialogue and experience sharing between participants and speakers.
During all breaks, participants had been able to sign up for speed-meetings with either Ambassadors or Experts, and after the parallel sessions the Summit facilitated 98 one-on-one meetings.