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Interview von Frontier Market Network mit Christoph Kannengießer, dem Hauptgeschäfstführer des Afrika-Vereins der deutschen Wirtschaft, im Vorfeld der Konferenz "Africa 2030":

"Africa 2030 to promote business between Germany and Africa"

Is there something special about 2030?  Why did you pick that date as the focus of the conference?

2030 is less than 17 years away, yet some African economies are likely to grow to 2 to 3 times their current size by that time.  This means that companies need to act now, in order to make the most of the expected strong growth in key markets.  Besides that, numerous studies and projects have taken the year 2030 as a “target date”.  We felt that it would make sense to align our conference with these.  

What do you wish to achieve with the conference?

The main objective of our Association is to promote business between Germany and Africa.  We see the conference as a way of presenting the modern Africa, highlighting some of the best business opportunities.  In addition, the event should help businesses to update their planning and adjust their approaches, based on the latest information available.  Finally, it would provide German and African political and business representatives with a good networking opportunity.

Is it realistic for companies to plan so far ahead, i.e. with 2030 as a target date?

We are not suggesting that companies should have a rigid plan that would cover the next 17 years.  The conference rather aims to highlight some main trends that should not be ignored by business.  As such, it should help companies to shape their overall strategy.  However, a look at long-term trends does not obviate the need for companies to remain responsive to the market in the short to medium term.  In our experience, success in African business relies to a large extent on good local partners, the ability to react quickly to new opportunities, and having an effective risk mitigation approach in place.

The conference will be held about 10 weeks after the German national elections.  Do you expect it to give new impulses to Germany´s Africa policy?

A conference that takes place in the German capital and focuses on the future of a neighbouring continent, will of course be of great interest to political decision-makers and opinion formers.  As soon as the next Bundestag (Germany´s Federal Parliament) has been constituted, we will be inviting key members to the conference.   In addition, a number of government officials and other decision-makers dealing with Africa are expected to attend.  We are sure that their attendance will enrich the discussions on the day.  At the same time, we hope that the impressions they gain at the event will - in a modest way - contribute to the shaping of German policy towards Africa.

Some analysts suggest that Africa´s economic future lies in closer ties with the BRICS states.  Do you perceive the growing presence of companies from the BRICS states as a threat to German business interests on the continent?

It´s a running debate, but I note several positive effects of the growing BRICS presence.  It has shifted the debate about Africa and has changed the public and business perception of the continent, promoting an image of Africa as a place for doing business.  While some of our members report a negative impact on their business, others note the benefits of participating in joint ventures with BRICS partners and spin-offs from investments by firms from the BRICS states.

Is the conference aimed at a German audience, or are African participants welcome to attend?

African participants add great value to our events!  They provide first-hand information and unique insights.  What is more, there is no substitute for personal contact when seeking to develop business relations.  We therefore do our best to encourage African participation, e.g. by using English as the conference language and by offering greatly reduced fees to representatives of African companies and institutions.  A quarter of the registrations to date stem from African participants and we hope that this trend will continue!

Finally, give us your personal view.  Will Africa live up to current expectations in the period up to 2030?

I see several reasons to be optimistic.  Reforms have taken effect and - in many parts of Africa - well-functioning markets and institutions are now taken for granted.  I am impressed by the abundance of entrepreneurs in Africa, the resilience of its people, the optimism of its youth and the creativity and innovation that seem to flourish in all parts of the continent.  This gives me great hope for Africa´s future.  Of course there are significant problems that remain - and these will surely be addressed during the conference as well - but Africa will continue to provide good business opportunities to German and other companies.  African business is the lifeblood of our Association, and we stand ready to assist wherever possible.

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