• June 4th, 2024

ASCAME welcomed high-level institutional and business representatives from West Africa to its Barcelona headquarters on the occasion of the agreement signed with the Chambre Consularie Regionale de l’Union Economique et Monetaire Ouest Africaine (CCR-UEMOA). The signature of the partnership agreement was attended by Mr. Ahmed M. El Wakil, President of ASCAME, Mr. Anwar Zibaoui, General Coordinator of ASCAME, Ms. Hélena María José Nosolini Embalo, President of CCR-UEMOA, and Mr. Arnauld Akakpo, President of the Benin Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The agreement responds to the commitment of both institutions to promote regional and economic integration of West Africa with the rest of the Mediterranean countries. Specifically, this new partnership between ASCAME and CCR-UEMOA aims to explore new business and investment opportunities between the two regions, strengthening the private sector, fostering knowledge transfer and promoting synergies between chambers of commerce and SMEs. ‘This agreement represents a unique opportunity to create a new cooperation framework that will allow us to achieve a fruitful economic integration for the benefit of the private sector in both regions’, said Ms. Hélena María José Nosolini Embalo, President of CCR-UEMOA. A good example of this integration is CCR-UEMOA, an institution that brings together national consular chambers, employers’ organisations and professional associations from different business sectors of 8 coastal and Sahelian states: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

In the same sense, Mr. Arnauld Akakpo, President of the Benin Chamber of Commerce and Industry, stressed the great investment opportunities that West Africa represents for the international expansion of EU companies: “This region has seen steady growth over the last decade, mainly due to the boom in local entrepreneurship, its technological transformation and the rise of economic sectors such as cotton and cereals, not to mention the upturn in the logistics sector in recent years”. Mr. Akakpo also highlighted “the large investment that has recently been made in infrastructure, such as roads and ports, which has attracted more foreign investment”.

Mr. Ahmed M. El Wakil, President of ASCAME, pointed out that ‘the destinies of Europe and Africa are united, with the Mediterranean being the natural space for this new axis of the future’. In this context, ‘cooperation is key to finding solutions to local, regional and global challenges and to support the private sector’. In this sense, El Wakil insisted on the crucial role played by the Mediterranean chambers of commerce and industry: “They are a key driver force for the economic development of the region, for the internationalisation of companies, for sustainable transition and for the promotion of the territory”. Mr. El Wakil added: “Chambers of commerce, in collaboration with supranational organisations, are key instruments for the successful coordination of North-South trade activities. Our institutions promote three levels of cooperation: development aid cooperation, trade cooperation through trade fairs and trade missions, and regional cooperation as partners with multilateral organisations. Chambers of commerce and the private sector play a key role in the diversification and transformation of the Mediterranean and African economies”.

The meeting held in Barcelona was also attended by various institutional representatives from different West African countries. One of these interventions was that of Ms. Mariétou Coulibay, Director General of UEMOA, who apart from giving more details about the collaboration agreement, explained the actions and objectives of this organisation: “The eight countries represented at UEMOA share the same purpose of building an integrated economic space in West Africa that strengthens the competitiveness of our companies, the attraction of foreign investment and the prosperity of the region. In this sense, the agreement signed with ASCAME is a significant step towards an economic integration that benefits the private sector, both in West African countries and in the rest of the Mediterranean”.

Mr. Alaa Ezz, Secretary General of the Confederation of Egyptian European Business Associations (CEEBA) and the Federation of Egyptian Chambers, told about the factors contributing to the increase of investors in this region of West Africa: “The increase in the adoption of technology and digital connectivity has boosted innovation and productivity in various economic sectors and the rise of start-ups that can transfer knowledge with start-ups and companies in the Mediterranean. Another important factor is the investment in infrastructure, such as roads, ports and energy, which has improved connectivity and facilitated regional and international trade, becoming major logistics hubs. Not to mention the synergies that can be established between the Central Bank of West African States and European banks to favour the competitiveness of companies in both regions”.