The Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, Romain Schneider, opened on 9 July 2015 the Africa Day with the goal to "stimulate inclusive growth in Africa". He was supported by Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. The conference, organized by the European Investment Bank (EIB), as part of the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union, aims to exchange best business practices on the African continent.
What are the opportunities in Africa? What are the investments necessary to enable the continent to prosper? What are the best plans of action to stimulate sustainable growth and create jobs? How can the institutions of development finance support private sector stakeholders and mobilize funds and the resources for the benefit of the economic development of Africa? These were some of the issues of the meeting open to CEOs and CFOs of both European and African companies.
This conference is timely for Romain Schneider, as it is taking place at the start of a Presidency which intends to focus on the European Year for Development 2015. The discussions on the table will also be ahead of the UN Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, and the UN Special Summit on Sustainable Development in New York in September, whose challenge is to define new objectives for sustainable development.
Romain Schneider highlighted against this framework that public support to development will play a key role, but will not be enough to finance a sustainable and inclusive development by 2030. The Minister further stated that if funds transferred by migrants and from direct foreign investments have an important part to play, the solution will not only derive from external funds.
"Africa's economic development requires strong institutions that guarantee the rule of law and a business climate suitable for the needs of small and medium enterprises"
"Sustainable growth in Africa will only be possible with economic development on the ground in Africa," said Romain Schneider actually quoting the figure from the African Development Bank, which recorded an average growth of 5% for African countries in 2014. "This growth is primarily driven by the private sector and will be sustainable only through it. The goal is therefore to sustain this growth and extend it to the poorest populations, to lift them out of poverty and permit them to lead a life in dignity", said Romain Schneider, who supported his opening speech with many examples of operations within the framework of the Luxembourg cooperation policy, either in Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso or Niger and Cape Verde.
"Africa's economic development requires strong institutions that guarantee the rule of law and a business climate suitable for the needs of small and medium enterprises", said Romain Schneider who believes that the goal is for "Africa to transform the exportation of raw materials to the processing and delivery of products on the African and global market". "Supporting the local value chain is therefore essential to create capital gains and wealth," he said mentioning the example of rural development, through a holistic approach by supporting the food sector value chain, from production to marketing and training. One of the issues to be addressed by Luxembourg is indeed the need to forge and strengthen links between education and the world economy and to train young people for jobs that the economy needs.
Among the many challenges identified by the Minister to fully develop the enormous potential of Africa, he mentioned access to electricity, which amounted to 24% for sub-Saharan Africa in 2013. "Sustainable energy development should be supported to provide electricity to households, but also to lower production costs of African companies", stated Romain Schneider.
"Investment in infrastructure, such as roads, ports and airports, is still essential to open up African economies and to give them access to the global market", emphasized the Minister, highlighting the important role of EIB in this regard, since it is actively investing a lot in this area through public-private partnerships. Romain Schneider focused on communications technology (ICT); this being an "important sector both for the proper functioning of the State and the development of the economy.
"He also added that "another important factor is the financial system adapted to people's needs and the demands of the private sector; he was indeed delighted to see the inclusive finance sector evolving in Africa. Romain Schneider also stated that Luxembourg has proven to have a special expertise in that sector.
"Strengthening economic relations between Europe and the Mediterranean countries in Africa is essential for inclusive development in these areas and certainly contributes to the consolidation of peace and security," said the Minister before winding up by affirming that hopefully the discussions of the day "will indicate how financial institutions and cooperation agencies can better explore the private sector and thereby stimulate inclusive growth in Africa."