Concerning the conference of 61th Annual Meeting of ETPOs - Connecting Europe with Africa: promoting economic collaboration and dialogue held in 20 & 21 October 2021, Mr. Sotiris Mousouris participated as speaker at the panel EU International cooperation and Development Policy in Africa.
Presentation of Mr. Mousouris
The search for ways to promote a closer and mutually beneficial collaboration of European and African businesses has been central in the agenda of the Hellenic-African Chamber of Commerce and Development since its establishment 22 years ago. As we are members of the European Business Council for Africa ( EBCAM) we are able to follow closely the progress in policies, measures and agreements adopted by the European and the Africa Unions as well as by individual countries and regions in the context of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy.
The Africa-EU dialogue, we believe, strengthens the continental integration and hopefully advances the efforts of reaching the Millennium Goals and other priority areas for action, such as on energy, climate change, migration, employment, trade, democratic governance, human rights , peace and security.
Our Chamber encourages Greek businessmen to turn their attention to the great continent,some 200 miles south of Crete,and explore opportunities for exports and investment in the countries of Sub Saharan Africa. We provide information and advice about thepolitical, social, economic, financial, commercial conditions and prospects in these countriesand even local possible collaborators.
The political situation and the state of governance, namely, justice, press, human rights and freedoms in general,should be considered,as factors for stability and inter alia , reduced uncertainty. It is noteworthy that in the last two decades democracy has gained ground in Sub-Saharan Africa and armed conflicts, although in certain areas endemic,have diminished. Peace and even democratic institutions reign in many parts of the continent.In addition, a positive business climate with stable rules of the game, a fair distribution of benefits between the foreign investor and the state and a persecution of bureaucracy and corrupt practices are important factorsfor a successful mobilization of the private sector.
Such an environment can facilitate investment activities in the areas of energy, green and digital transformation as well as inclusive and sustainable development and job creation. Labour intensive activities could deal to some extent to the unemployment of themillions of African youth (in 2050 the African population will double reaching 2,4 billion and in 2100 50% of the children would have been born in Africa) and hopefully will curtail illegal immigration.
Regarding green energy the progress is limited mostly to Egypt, South Africa and Morocco, with limited activity in few other countries, including agreek small project in Uganda. On the contrarythe evolution of the digital transformation in Sub Sahara Africa has been impressive.
In the last two years , to a large extent due to theCovitpandemia,digital transformation has accelerated especially in government services and banking and is expected that large enterprises will offer banking services as well as electronic money institutions offering limited banking products. In Kenya for several years now MPESA offers payment services using mobile phones. A member of our board, one of the vice presidents, active in the field in Africa,believes, thatit is urgent to invest in human capital more than in equipment because we face a digital revolution in which the technology will dramatically evolve in the very near future.
Africa, the Great Continent of one billion dynamic, resilient, resourceful people, despite the destructive sides of the colonial inheritance, notably the arbitrary borders and the enforced production model, despite the conflicts and the excesses of dictators and the impact of the Cold War, after 60 years of independence is taking serious steps to eradicate extreme poverty, improve governance, strengthen regional integration and avoid marginalization. The establishment of institutions around the African Union, NEPAD, the Continental Free Zone,, the 5 -7 per cent growth of GDP, and the dialogue with Europe are solid signs of a new promising era. China and to a lesser extent India and Turkey have already taking advantage of these developments. Now is the time for Europe, including Greece that has lagged behind, and all those who are not primarily self-seeking, exploiters and seeking geostrategicgainsto support the African struggle for an all embracing development. Our Conference today , I believe, is a sincere contribution to that effect.
Οn the moderator’s question “ What led you to create the Hellenic-African Chamber of Commerce and Development and are you satisfied with the impact of the chamber in the 20 years since its founding”, Mr. Mousouris responded:
My first encounter with Africa was at my first work responsibility at the United Nations as economist when I spent one year in Ethiopia and the West Africa as deputy of a team that prepared a plan of a Common Market for the West Africa. , which unfortunately was not implemented at that time. Africa and its people fascinated me. I had other occasions to deal with economic, developmental and political African issues, e.g as director of the Centre against apartheid.
Later when I returned to Greece as special envoy of Greece I visited 15 african countries and then I found as Greek a warm reception by the governments and met many of our compatriots who had successful business there. It was then that I decided to create the Chamber with the purpose to induce our businessmen to look south and export and invest in the great continent which offered huge opportunities.
The Chamber that from the beginning had mobilized top entrepreneurs with activities in Africa introduced, informed, and persuaded the Greek business world about the promising prospects of the extroversion and entry to Africa. We had some positive results but not as many as we had wished.
Now I am trying to persuade our governmental and business community to collaborate in synergy for a strategy of exostrefia that includes trade, investment, political contacts and developmental assistance concerning selected Sudsaharanafrican countries. It is a serious matter of national interest.
Comment by Mr. Andras Diamandeas on the sector of the Digital Tranformation
Digital Economy evolution
Digital transformation has become a necessity. During the last years all sectors are transforming or at least are designing their digital future. During the last two years, we have seen tremendous changes - accelerated mainly due to Covid pandemic - in Government services, banking, health, teleworking, etc. We all improved our house or company wi-fi capacity and the computing capacity from family-capacity became personal capacity (a family with 5 persons has at least 5 laptops, 4-5 mobile phones and a couple of notepads).
The evolution in Digital Economy has not to do only to the Digital Marketing or the introduction of new technology and modern Information Systems. Mainly it is related with the collection of Data, the introduction of a Digital Strategy, the personnel training in new Digital tools and the building of viable competitive advantages using modern technology and digital solutions.
According to International studies in a few years the high percentage of large enterprises will offer banking products, taking advantage of the legislation changes and the evolution of technology. Currently, we seeand we follow Telecommunication, Energy, Betting companies to offer modern banking services using as a vehicle an EMI (Electronic Money Institution). EMIs, are Financial Institutions offering limited Banking Products and modern services, taking advantage of their large Customer base while at the same time they are fast and agile versus traditional banking institutions.
As an example of digital services in Africa, we have seen – for several years now - the “miracle” of MPESA in Kenya. MPESA is a subsidiary of Safaricom, offering Payments services with the use of mobile phones. The money transfers and payments done using MPESA correspond to almost 40% of Kenya’s GDP reaching a few trillions of Kenyan Shillings. The amazing thing is that the mobile phones used are not only smart phones but also the previous generation mobile phones.
A very important note is that we need to be very careful designing our digital future. We need to act fast, invest in Human capital more than investing in equipment and keep in mind that what we face is a digital revolution (not an evolution) that just started, the technology will dramatically evolve in the next years, thus we must be prepared to invest now and invest more in the future.