The 3rd International Conference on Africa brought together politicians, business people, academics and culture professionals from Slovenia, European and African states, including members of the diplomatic corps. The conference has provided an excellent opportunity to discuss the current situation and the future relations of Slovenia as an EU member state on the one hand and Africa on the other. The introductory address was given by H.E. Mr Karl Erjavec, Slovenian Minister of Foreign Affairs, followed by speeches of the Slovenian Minister of Education, Science and Sport H.E. Dr. Jernej Pikalo and H.E. Mr Ajay Kumar Bramdeo, African Union Ambassador to the EU. The opening ceremony was moderated by Mr Peter Toš, Former Ambassador, President of the Club of Former Slovenian Ambassadors.
The first day of the Conference was divided into 3 sessions. The first session- “Follow up of the EU-Africa Summit- Investing in people: Human resources development and human capital” addressed development concepts for human resources and human capital, with particular emphasis on education training and cooperation on science and research. The session was moderated by Prof Dr Mitja Žagar (Institute for Ethnic Studies, Slovenia).
The second session- “Good Civil Registration Governance and its Relevance for Circular Migration” was moderated by Ms Alenka Prvinšek Persoglio, Vice President, Interact4c. The panel stressed out the importance of the civil registration of circular migrants in their countries of origin, for both their legal departure and return. The circular migration of highly qualified migrants and preventing the brain drain from their countries of origin is directly connected with well-developed system of registration and support of consular services.
The third session- “The role of Diaspora and Non-governmental Organizations in Africa’s Development” offered an important aspect in the development of the African continent with a particular emphasis on the integration of the diaspora and immigrant communities into European countries. As individuals, communities and organizations, immigrants from Africa must be given the opportunity to improve their knowledge in Europe, understand their role for both the development of their European environment and the development of their respective countries of origin. The relevance of proposals, current and future programs and projects, including innovative proposals for strategic development, can be assessed only on this basis. The session was moderated Dr Marijanca Ajša Vižintin, Slovenian Migration Institute, Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
The second day of the 3rd Africa Day was dedicated to the exploration of business opportunities between Africa and Slovenia. As the President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia Mr. Samo Hribar Milič highlighted in his welcome address, Slovenia has much to offer to African businesses and investments in Slovenia. Slovenia for Africa is the gateway to the European Union markets and access to big inner market which can offer well-developed infrastructure, public and a high level of the education system, a high quality of life and a well-functioning social care system. On the other hand, the lack of information and greatly limited Slovenian diplomatic representation on the African continent impedes business cooperation between Africa and Slovenia despite close tights established in academic level since the Yugoslavian times.
Moreover, in his opening speech Dr. Stanislav Raščan, Ambassador and Director General for Economic Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, noted that despite modest relations at the moment, the potential fpr cooperation is significantly higher, particularly in the sectors of energy and renewable energy, water management, environmental developments, ICT pharmaceutical, automotive, engineering, chemical industries as well as tourism. The establishment of an adequate legal framework and agreements with the African Chamber of Commerce would advance business cooperation.
The first session, professionally chaired and moderated by HE Dr. Janez Šumrada, Ambassador, Head of the Department for Economic Promotion at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, on “Economic opportunities between Slovenia and Morocco” focused on various business opportunities in the Kingdom of Morocco presented by HE Dr. Ali El Mhamdi, Ambassador of Morocco to the Republic of Slovenia, and his team. As HE Dr. Mhamdi highlighted, the growing middle class and consumer spending, young and well-educated labor force, safety and political stability. Other panel participants shed light on the reasons of why investors should consider Morocco as an investment destination, as a tourism and tourism industry investment destination and as a destination for investments in the area of renewable energy. It is noteworthy that ICPE last year organized the international capacity development project on “Sustainable Energy Solutions” in cooperation with UNIDO and the international training on “Wastewater Management and Solar Energy” for the representatives of several African countries financed by OFID, training which particularly attracted the attention of the Moroccan delegation that expressed their wish to participate in such trainings.
The second session presented the “Economic opportunities between Slovenia and West African Nations – Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and Ghana”. The panel presentations indicated that knowledge transfer and business partnerships already exist, but there are plenty of unexplored possibilities in areas of oil and gas, agriculture and agro-processing, real estate sector, ICT, roads and infrastructure, tourism, health care and pharmaceutical industry as well as tourism.
The third session focused on “Connecting Africa with Europe – Europe for Africa and Africa for World project”. In this panel participants presented and explored the possibilities of the cooperation in the areas of high-end technology and innovation on the one side and Slovenia’s excellent geographical position and well-developed infrastructure, particularly, the Port of Koper, road and railways infrastructure as an enabler and facilitator for such cooperation on the other.
The last panel was a “Round Table on Business Opportunities in Africa: Debate with African Ambassadors accredited to Slovenia” with esteemed Ambassadors from Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda and Morocco. Although the Ambassadors were focusing on specificities and particularities of each country, one has learnt that the African economy is the most resilient in terms of global economic crises and continues growing, and that the improved business environment has already attracted the increase of FDI in diverse sectors across continent and this trend is likely to continue in the coming decades. Private, public and private-public investments are welcomed and the African countries are generous in offering diverse incentives, including tax exemptions, tax holidays and favorable conditions to foreign investors.
Tremendous potential is there yet clear and transparent cooperation and regulatory framework are to be established at the bilateral level to foster cooperation in business, education and science between African countries and Slovenia. As HE Dr. Janez Šumrada emphasized in his closing remarks, the Republic of Slovenia believes in Africa, its economic and human potential and despite being a small country with limited resources but can still contribute to the development of mutual links.