QATAR-AFRICA EVENT-WEBINAR KEYNOTE SPEECH OF THE PRESIDENT, ABUJA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY (ACCI) AT THE INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS DELEGATION OF THE QATAR-AFRICA BUSINESS FORUM HELD ON WEDNESDAY 7TH APRIL, 2021, VIRTUALLY.
Global economic disruption compels countries and economic blocs to re-assess partnership and supply chains. The pandemic inspired new normal, teaches global leaders on the need to review economic alliances, build new ones and tap into historical linkages to start new production value chains. This trajectory is happening in Central Asia, the Indian sub-continent, Eastern Europe and Central Africa.
However, Africa and Middle East are both slow in recognizing and capitalizing on the imperative of a new start. Consequently, a more collaborative partnership arising from centuries of economic and religious relationship is important. I must add here that the Middle East – Africa relationship predates western colonialism. The West was however more proactive, hence the strong presence and controlling influence of the West across Africa.
Again, while the wave of Western presence in Africa is being challenged, Middle East again was slow in acting. China then entered Africa more aggressively and in the last two decades, has established an octopus presence that is even threatening Western interests on the continent. In the competition for new partnership, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was missing as there exists little or no institutional framework to create a working economic relationship with Africa. The GCC appears to be content with the linkage with the Mediterranean states and North Africa. This strategy leaves over 75 percent of Africa out of focus. Middle East-Sub-Sahara Africa partnership demands more active attention as Africa is now widely regarded, based on studies and facts on ground, as the continent of great opportunities.
Africa today has the youngest world population, with strong digital orientation. Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies. While many world economies are down, many African states are still recording growth even as the effect of the pandemic has been smartly managed by many African nations. A continent booming with several landmarks’ infrastructural projects, Africa is home to new ports. Airports, trans-continental railways and Trans-African highways. This is a continent with Agenda 2063, an African Union continental development agenda which nation states in Africa are actively implementing.
QATAR IN AFRICA
Many Middle East nations are in Africa. Strangely the presence is felt more in the rivalry imported from home than in practical partnership for economic prosperity. The focus on backing one political groups or the other obscures the more important business relationship especially with the private sector in Africa.
Let me start this segment by first commending his Royal Highness, the Amir of Qatar for his commitment to forging a strong partnership with Africa. I want to put on records his Majesty’s visit to several African countries with many Government-Government Agreements (G2G). It is also on records that Qatar has extensively supported African developmental projects. This is in addition to many humanitarian projects financed by Qatari foundation. Of course, we cannot forget the unifying role of Qatar airline which operates direct flights to many African capitals.
We can say the relationship has been warm and productive. But the recently resolved conflict within the Gulf communities must be an eye opener for Doha. The old economic model clearly demands a re-jigging and re-modelling. G2G model which Qatar is famous for should undergo surgical re-alignment. It is time for the Qatari nation to prioritize people to people, business to business between Qataris and Africans. A strong partnership across sectors should exist between Qatari private sector and African business.
There is the urgent need for such partnership to evolve into Africa-Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This would facilitate and establish strong trade groups covering industrial and Trade sectors. The Chamber will exist in all African capitals, focusing on expanding partnership between Qatari and African businesses. For us in Nigeria, the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) will be ready to spearhead the formation and hosting of the proposed chamber of Commerce.
His Majesty, the Amir and the government of Qatar can then capitalize on such structures while pursuing G2G. We believe the above will help to grow and deepen Qatari-Africa business and economic relationship.
QATAR IN AFCFTA
The premise I listed in the previous segment should be taken with this section. Why should Qatar rework its economic model in dealing with Africa? The answer is not farfetched. Africa, a market of almost two billion people, is now under a free trade zone. This is the continent every bloc of the world is looking towards. It is a land of opportunities. Friends of Africa like Qatar should ac, deploying the above proposed structures to cement budding economic alliances with Africa.
Using the chamber platforms, it is time for Qatar to invest in industrial parks, special economic zones and several greenfield and brownfield infrastructural projects.
Aside from the above, Qatar should also show interest in the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063. The agenda has strong multilateral segments. It also has a private sector component. African leaders are presently seeking partnership for the Agenda which covers all sectors. The African Union also has a Business Partnership Alliance which focuses on liaising and linking African business with related financing and partnership opportunities in African projects. Again, Abuja Chamber of Commerce will be ready to provide full support for Qatari businesses on how to tap into the Agenda 2063 projects.
To round up, my submission calls on Qatari leadership to launch a Qatari-African Chamber of Commerce. This is very pertinent and apt within the context of African Continental Free Trade Area. It is time to leverage on historical relationship to create synergy between Qatari and African businesses. It is time for Qatar to look beyond soft economic deals to ground-breaking partnership and economic alliances.
Thanks for listening.