…..As UE-Niger Business Forum ends in Niamey
Report: Mohammed Abu, Niamey
The first two-day EU-Niger 2023 Business Forum ended on Wednesday in Niamey with the announcement of the creation of a European Union-Niger Chamber of Commerce including expression of interest by some potential investors to do business in Niger, as the major outputs.
The EU-Niger chamber of commerce will not only serve as a mouth piece for European companies wishing to establish themselves in Niger, but also, as a secretariat-point of contact for business, as well as a medium for continuity of dialogue with the authorities relating to important business issues.
Series of expertly moderated panel discussions by eminent panelists from Niger, Europe and the West African sub region covering a number of topical issues, was held alongside multi-industry sessions involving key Niger government institutions.
Multiple industry sessions presentations by Director Generals of various Niger Ministries involving, Agriculture, Energy, Hydrology and Sanitation among others, unveiled on-going government programmes and projects, potential investors could buy into.
In order to maximize the utilization of Niger’s huge agricultural potential, government launched the creation of agro-industrial Poles programme that is to involve commercialization of primary production via irrigation fed farming alongside commercialization of processing for exports thereby positioning Niger as an agro products driven economy.
Aside that, exploring Niger’s rich renewable energy potential to beef up the country’s energy mix so as to support industrialization, maximizing of the benefits from her rich base metals and industrial minerals potential among others, are initiatives government is pursuing towards unleashing a new dawn in Niger.
The event which drew over 900 participants from Niger, the West African sub-region, Europe and beyond, also recorded the participation of three Secretaries of State, two officials from European countries, about 400 companies worldwide 70 out of which were reported to be European.
Organized jointly by the European Union in collaboration with the Niger Ministry of Commerce, the event was aimed at deepening business engagement between the EU and Niger, West African sub-region.
Bringing the event to a close, Mr. Alkache Alhada, the Niger Minister of Trade, noted, “These exchanges, have enabled all the investor partners to realize the enormous potential that Niger abounds in, as well as, the facilities that could be offered to them on the administrative, tax and financial levels, for those who wish to settle in Niger.
The Minister also disclosed that according to the echoes that have reached them, several investors have commented on expressing their interest either in settling in Niger to develop their business and/or, forging partnerships with Nigerien companies.
In this regard, Mr. Alkache added, ”I would like to be delighted with this progress which will allow us in the years to come to really launch the industrialization of Niger”.
Noting with great satisfaction the major outputs of the event, Mr. Alkache thanked the European Union delegation for its full involvement and the various panelists who had shed light on the potentials and enabling business environments thus, leading to the success of the event.
The Ambassador of the European Union in Niger, Mr. Salvador, on his part also noted with satisfaction the success of the two-day event. He thanked the Trade Minister and all members of his team for the organization and for the tireless work during six months’ project.
“I also think that Niger’s potential comes out in value after this Business Forum and we are very proud of it,” noted, Mr. Salvador while adding, ”Niger is emerging from this event, which is particularly visible on the radar of investors in a regional context which remains cloudy”.
Earlier in his opening speech, the President of Niger, His Excellency, Mohamed Bazoum, appreciated both participants and organizers of the meeting which was organized in the wake of the round table of the PDES 2022 – 2026 held recently in Paris, for ”the interest you take in investments in Niger, as evidenced by the extent of your participation and the intensity of your mobilization”.
Posting a rhetoric question, ‘What is not said about the handicaps of my country Niger? ‘President Mohamed Bazoum submitted that, the crucial issue wasn’t the denial of the handicaps or challenges, “but to change perspectives to move us towards our development goals by overcoming obstacles”.
According to President Bazoum, “change of era takes place following catalytic crises”.
“This time we are witnessing the conjunction of crises, climatic, environmental, geopolitical, economic, financial, security, migration, values and meaning.
“If these large-scale systemic crises spare no part of the world, they seem to have met in Niger, thus confirming that our country is a multidimensional geostrategic node critical for the stability of Africa, and even from Europe.
”If Niger has handicaps it also has considerable assets. Its geographical position, its wealth of natural resources including water, its arable land and considerable livestock, many sources of energy, minerals, its human and civilizational heritage, and its young population, make it a hinge between the North and the South of the African continent and between Europe and Africa, and a pivot of stabilization and commercial exchanges.
Companies and investors from the European Union, in addition to financial capital, President Bazoum noted, have technological and industrial capital which the Nigerien economy so badly needs.
Today, we can say that the European Union and Niger are each in the strategic neighborhood of the other, ‘noted President Bazoum while also insisting on the urgent need for Europe and Niger, Africa, to develop a win-win partnership in a constantly changing world”
He also intimated, “the painful global transition we are going through is accompanied by opportunities to be seized, together, Europeans and Nigeriens, Europeans and Africans, to give us the best possible chances in the new era that is coming-digitalization of economies across the globe.
Ms. Chrysoula Zacharopulou, Secretary of State to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, in charge of development, the Francophonie and France’s international partnerships on her part, that they were fully aware of the challenges faced by Niger, like many countries on the African continent but that notwithstanding she noted, “beyond the challenges, Niger and Africa are all lands of opportunities”, adding, “We want to publicize these opportunities. We want to talk about Jobs, Investments, Innovations and New Partnerships”.
”Dear Nigerien friends, we are strongly and permanently committed to your side. We are determined to support your country in the face of the many challenges it is bravely facing”, declared Ms. Chrysoula while affirming, ’’ We want to support inclusive growth, which develops a private sector that provides jobs, and above all, which improves the well-being of the Nigerien population.
Ms. Chrysoula intimated that her presence here, with her European colleagues, is a strong message while also taking note of the words of a colleague, a French civil servant, who had said that she was enthusiastic at the idea of “further strengthening our partnership with your youth and your civil society, whose energy and dynamism amaze us every day”.
Ms. Chrysoula also acknowledged the remarkable presence of high personalities from other European countries and even beyond, at the opening ceremony of the Business Forum.
They included, among others, the Director General of Sustainable Development Policies at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of Spain, Mrs. Eva Del Hoyo Barbolla, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Portugal, Mr. Francisco André, of Mr. Konstantinos Frangkogiannis, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Greece, who moreover all intervened during this opening ceremony as well as the Nigerien Minister of Trade, Mr. Alkache Alhada, Mr. Moussa Sidi Mohamed President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Niger and The Ambassador, Head of the Delegation of the European Union in Niger, Mr. Salvador ¨Pinta Da Franca.