The EU-Africa Business Forum lined up an impressive panel of three private sector representatives from Europe and Africa. On the panel were Pierre Gattaz, president of MEDEF, the French Business Confederation; Vimal Shah, CEO of BIDCO Oil Refineries Limited and BIDCO Group; and Rebecca Stromeyer, the founder of eLearning Africa. Chris Bishop, managing editor of Forbes Africa, moderated the debate.
Africa needs a great deal more investment and every initiative that drives this forward is most welcome. However, Vimal Shah, a Kenyan multimillionaire businessman, entrepreneur and industrialist, has this warning for Europe. “Africa is not waiting for somebody from Europe to sort it out. We have demand, and it will be met by somebody, from somewhere…from India, from China, from Brazil.” Other challenges relate to poor infrastructure and logistics, and vast swathes of arable land standing empty. Citing an example, Mr Shah said: “The price to bring a container from China to Mombasa is USD 600, but from Mombasa to the US is USD 2000.”
Also on the morning panel discussion, Pierre Gattaz picked up on the thread of getting start-ups off the ground. His recommendation was to send SMEs from Europe to motivate and partner with African start-ups, which would help to create local jobs. But Mr Gattaz was clear, however, that nothing would happen without the involvement of business people. Enough of the “talking talking talking, we need action action action,” he said. To this end, MEDEF is already planning its first start-up meeting in Africa, and will find advisors in France to help develop local businesses. Rebecca Stromeyer agreed that finding ways to fund African SMEs, which more often than not are turned away by banks, and education, particularly for women, are the two most pressing issues.
Vimal Shah, CEO of Bidco Oil Refi neries Limited and BIDCO Group (Bio)
Pierre Gattaz, President MEDEF - French Business Confederation (Bio)
Rebecca Stromeyer, Founder of eLearning Africa (Bio)
Chris Bishop, Editor Forbes Africa Magazine (Bio)