Dr. G D Singh, Chairman, Asian-African Chamber of Commerce & Industry discusses the business climate for foreign investors in Africa, the sectors that are most ripe for development, chamber’s achievements towards enhancing economic ties between Asia and Africa and its activities in terms of establishing relationships with external organizations.
What led to the decision to establish the Asian-African Chamber of Commerce & Industry? How did you first become involved with it?
The mission actually started in the year 2015 during my visit to Lagos when I was holding the charge of President of CIHF (Confederation of Indian Healthcare Foundation) where I met the High Prince of Nigeria, Leye Babalola, Past President and Present Patron of the Institute of Company and Commercial Accountants of Nigeria (ICCA). We discussed the Asian & African Economy emphasizing the fact that the Asian economy had been stabilised and doing pretty well as compared to the African region. But there is no association or chamber or body which has actually taken an initiative to oversee the experience that has enabled the Asian countries to achieve growth in leaps and bounds, knowledge of which could have benefited the African region.
The High Prince and I had a further meeting with the presidents/representatives of various Commerce Chambers and professionals of high repute from the entire Asian-African region and debated on the subject. We concluded with a decision to form the Asian-African Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) with a view to giving the business community of both regions a voice and a tool to foster development and realize the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and to strengthen the trade relationship between both continents. AACCI was set to transform this vision into reality. The founding members of AACCI set out to create transnational corporations, which would have a presence in all associated member countries and whose capital would be built by nationals of all 102 prospective member countries.
The AACCI logo also depicts the Asian economy which has grown and become stronger and should support the African economy and ensure that the African region also grows.
Please introduce AACCI’s major achievements and contributions towards enhancing economic ties between Asia and Africa.
AACCI has signed MoU with various Chambers of Commerce and bodies in Asia and Africa to strengthen business relations and to establish a practical framework to facilitate the development of stronger business relations between the Asian & African regions.AACCI had organised activities for MSMEs and their impact in the Economic Development of Africa. Various developments in the healthcare sector have taken place to enhance the quality and recognize the leaders in the healthcare and pharma sector from both Asian and African regions. AACCI also organised an award program to recognise and honour business leaders who have shown outstanding performance and tenacity in developing successful businesses in the Asian and African regions.
We would be shortly announcing the biggest Trade & Investment Summit, i.e., Asian African Trade & Investment Summit (AATIS 2019), the largest forum for global investment opportunities, and biggest ever trade show, B2B and B2G meetings. An extravaganza engaging world leaders & diplomats, the movers and shakers of global business, corporate gurus, fortune writers, global investors, dynamic entrepreneurs, seasoned professionals and consultants, film and television celebrities, and many more will participate in the event.
What are the key priorities of the chamber?
Serving our members’ needs is the primary reason for the existence of the Chamber. Secondly, the representatives are a vital resource through which we will accomplish our objectives. Hence, our key priorities would be to appoint our representatives in all the 102 countries by the end of 2020. Thirdly, we seek to establish meaningful partnerships with multilateral organisations across both the continents , a top priority for the success of the chamber.
In which sectors do you see the most investment opportunities in Africa, especially for Indian companies?
We see the opportunities in sectors like agriculture, banking, consumer goods, infrastructure, mining, oil & gas, and telecommunications.
How has the perception of Africa evolved among your members?
Africa has continued to be looked down upon by the Western powers. Negative perceptions and representations such as civil wars, hunger, corruption, greed, selfishness, disease, poverty, and the like have been the defining characteristics of Africa and the Africans in the minds of many Western people.
There is no question that one of the significant reasons for Africa’s lack of growth over the last 10–15 years is because of macro-economic policies have [sic] improved. The reason for this is that African policy-makers followed Structural Adjustment Programmes over the last 10 – 15 years. It worked, it delivered results. It achieved economic growth and poverty reduction.
One would be impressed by the tremendous changes that mark economic performance in countries that were serious about reform. The overall growth rates are robust; budgets are far more disciplined, agricultural prices have been liberalised, market-driven exchange systems are universal, governments have been downsized, regulations have been reduced, there is broad emergence of a more productive private sector and increased resources have been deployed to expand programs in education and health. I firmly believe that history will conclude that the long-term impact of the painful reforms that marked the 80s and 90s in Africa has been overwhelmingly positive.
Africa is on the cusp of tremendous change, with the recent agreements on the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons and the launch of the Single African Air Transport Market.
Ongoing continental-level efforts to facilitate intra-African mobility, trade, investment and technology must complement the positive contribution of African migrants to the economies of origin and destination countries.
What is the biggest synergy and priority you see today between Asia and Africa?
The Asian economy, especially East Asian economy has proven resilient over the years, in turn helping push the global economy. Africa, meanwhile, is still treading on the path to growth. Its young demography and economics require integration and expansion into Asia’s value chains of production. Together, Asia and Africa represent 70 percent of the global population and 37 percent of global GDP.
The significant synergies between Asia & Africa are primarily into Agriculture & Animal Resources, Capacity Building in Defence sector, Dairy Cooperation, Leather & Allied Sectors, Auto Sector, Bullet trains, projects on rice, cotton, solar energy and new information technologies.
The next decade will be an opportunity for both regions to realise their economic and social potential as well as deepen their capacities and institutional strengths. As developing regions, both continents are expected to promote healthy, balanced, sustainable and inclusive growth at national and international levels, and to actively cooperate in narrowing existing development gaps and addressing common economic and social challenges. The Asia–Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) is the chosen pathway to reach these goals.
The Asian & African top priorities should be on development and cooperation projects; quality infrastructure and institutional connectivity; enhancing capacities and skills & people to people partnership.
How is the year 2019 slated to be for your chamber?
The critical areas of focus for our chamber would include Membership Drive and few business and leadership forums for the Asian & African leaders. Additionally, we would be creating new committees within our group which will provide members with appropriate marketing tools to promote their business through welcome packets, mailer newsletters, websites and more. n