Economy Minister Margarete Schramböck and the entrepreneurs Hakeem Belo-Osagie and Angelika Huemer (from left) discussed current trends on the neighboring continent at Africa Day.

05.11.2020 Mariana Kühnel, Deputy Secretary General of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce WKÖ, welcomed around 300 participants to Africa Day 2020 on November 5th. This took place virtually, of course, the corona crisis does not leave the largest Austrian discussion forum for African-Austrian economic relations unaffected.

With the top-class Keynotes and panel discussions, however, most of the speakers wanted to focus on the positive and the potential that Austrian companies in Africa had to offer than to spend too long complaining about the current problems. After Kühnel's introductory words, the Austrian business delegates from Cairo, Nairobi, Johannesburg and Casablanca gave an insight into the current economic situation.  

For example tried Egypt, coming out of the crisis through large-format infrastructure and construction projects - there are also many opportunities for Austrian companies here. Rwanda on the other hand likely for Austrian start-ups very to be interesting. And also the South African energy crisis offers domesticn Green tech company opportunities. WKÖ vicepresident Amelie Groß grasped together: “Africa should not be missing from any export strategy these days, diversification is all about it schließlich more important than ever."  

Africa is growing together

For the following two Keynotes were switched to Lagos and Kigali. Mo Abudu, Nigerian media mogul and, according to Forbes, “Africa's most successful woman”, encouraged Austrian companies to build a solid base in Africa from which many countries on the continent could work - especially in view of the new African free trade area AfCFTA. Africa is nothing less than "the future of the world". The agreement is also of enormous importance for Soraya Hakuziyaremye, Rwanda's Minister of Commerce. This accelerates the creation of regional value chains and, in principle, the urgently needed industrialization of the continent. “Africa today is much more united than in the past. We have common aspirations and speak with one voice, ”she said. 

In the following discussion, Economics Minister Margarete Schramböck emphasized the important role of innovative young companies and start-ups. And Hakeem Belo-Osagie, one of the leading Nigerian entrepreneurs and investors, said that digitization in Africa had received an enormous boost as a result of the current crisis - including in the health sector, as many patients in Africa were advised by mobile phone.

Austria is already known to many more entrepreneurs in Africa than it sometimes seems in this country, added Belo-Osagie added. The UN organizations in Vienna are primarily responsible for this. “In Africa, like the Germans, Austrians are considered hardworking and very accurate. You also benefit from the fact that Austria has no colonial history in Africa. I think a lot more is possible for Austrian companies in Africa, especially in the areas of infrastructure, health and agriculture, ”said Belo-Osagie. He gave Austrian entrepreneurs who want to do business in Africa a tip on the way: “It is very important that you build a good and personal relationship with your partners and customers. You have to make these people your friends. So don't forget to congratulate the children of your business partners on their birthday! " 

Projects in the pipeline

In another panel, companies showedRepresentatives from China, Portugal and Turkey that there is great interest in cooperating with Austrian companies in Africa, especially in the infrastructure sector. Numerous financing and security instruments are available, as emphasized by Erwin Marchhart and Ferdinand Schipfer from the Oesterreichische Kontrollbank and Michael Wancata from the Oesterreichische Entwicklungsbank. The latter has already identified four specific projects by Austrian companies in Africa that will be financed next year.

Then stood B2B discussions between Austrian and African companies are just as much a part of the program as individually tailored advice from the Austrian business delegates who are active in Africa.  

Photo: Screenshot