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Creating Blue Opportunities at the Nordic-African Business Summit 2018

On November 8th, 48 speakers, 24 ambassadors, and 389 participants from African and Nordic companies joined forces to discuss how blue opportunities, especially within the maritime, energy and agriculture sector, can be better utilised to create effective and sustainable growth on the African continent. About 90 percent of Africa’s exports and imports are already conducted by sea, yet the continents overall share of world trade remain small. For the eight-consecutive year, the Norwegian-African Business Association hosted the Nordic region’s leading business conference on African markets in Oslo.

Welcoming remarks were given by Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E Ine Eriksen Søreide. During her speech, H.E. Søreide emphasised that “investments opportunities in Africa are plenty”, and that today “some of the largest business opportunities in Africa are blue”, something that the Nordic countries has had great experience with, from the Vikings to the shipping industry.

During the first plenary sessions, key speaker H.E President Patrice Talonwelcomed the chance to come and share information about Africa and Benin, a continent often misportrayed in the media. He said that the continent has seen extraordinary changes in short time, and that it is important to remember that African countries have different opportunities to offer, different environments and different conditions for investment.

Together with good governance, strong local communities and good education systems, it is “paramount that private investment, before aid, is seen as the catalyser for growth in Africa”, and highlighted Benin’s costal line, agriculture and tourism, as potential areas to invest in.

The first plenary session also included presentations by Razia Khan on Africas economic outlook and Gillian Parker on the Africa outlook risk.

Starting off plenary session two, Paul Holthus, CEO of the World Ocean Council, termed the ocean “the liquid medium that brings us all together”, and presented how the ocean represents all sets of business communities by the costal lines, from shipping to fisheries, aquaculture to seabed mining. By 2050 for instance, 15 percent of the EUs energy demand will come from ocean energy, and he maintained that Africa “has enormous potential in this blue economy”.

Another main key speaker of the second plenary session was Dr. Mo Ibrahim, Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. He focused on the role of government and the rule of law to help spur conducive business environments, and shared concerns over the education system that he feels has stagnated. When asked about what advice he would give to Norwegian companies he urged companies to “take into consideration the great young population growth, get people on board”, education and jobs are all ingredients for sustainable growth.

After the plenary sessions, participants and guests could choose between four different networking lunches, representing different topics and networking opportunities.

Coming back from lunch participants then joined one of three parallel sessions. The Maritime session focused on ports and waste management, the Agribusiness session on aquaculture, fisheries and agriculture, and the Energy session on electricity production and demand, reliable energy and transport.

Each parallel session had between 50-100 participants and there was room for questions and answers, dialogue and experience sharing between participants and speakers.

During all breaks, participants had been able to sign up for speed-meetings with either Ambassadors or Experts, and after the paralell sessions the Summit faciliated 98 one-on-one meetings.

Again, over 380 participants from 170 different companies and 30 countries contributed to yet another successful Summit. Thank you to everyone who attended the conference, we hope the conference brought you one step closer to the blue opportunity.