Introductory remarks at the African-Norwegian Business Summit by State secretary Dilek Ayhan, 01 November 2013
*Sjekkes mot fremføring*
Good morning, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen!
I am very pleased to be here today to represent the Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry. Thank you for the opportunity to elaborate more on the new government’s vision on trade and economic relations with Africa.
A decade ago the news magazine Economist regrettably labeled Africa “the hopeless continent”.
Since then, profound changes have taken place. Today, front pages with titles such as “Africa rising” or “The world’s next economic powerhouse” are much more common.
This tells us two things:
- That predicting the future is difficult.
- And that reforms and stability, which many African countries have experienced, are crucial to economic development.
Some say that this century will be Africa’s. This is hard to argue when some key facts are put on the table:
Africa is currently one of the fastest-growing regions in the world.
From 2000 through 2008, the African continent’s real GDP rose by 4.9 percent a year – more than twice its pace in the 1980s and 1990s.
High demand for Africa’s goods, increased consumer spending and a growing working-population – further raise Africa’s prospects.
Africa’s quickening economic pulse is also felt here in Norway:
- Africa’s demand for Norway’s goods and services has increased nearly five times since 2000.
- The number of Norwegian companies operating and investing in African countries is increasing – today there are more than 100 companies, especially within sectors such as offshore, maritime and energy.
- And last but not least, the establishment in 2011 of today’s host, the Norwegian African Business Association, is another example of the increased activity.
But it is clear that we are not exploiting the full potential – neither in business nor in trade.
This is partly because of the challenges related to trade and investments in many of the new growth markets. For instance:
- Trade barriers such as customs, visa and local content requirements,
- Political instability,
- Lack of qualified labor,
- Poor infrastructure,
- And lack of transparent and predictable regulations for doing business.
These are all issues needed to be addressed if we are to boost the current investment rate in Africa.
The Norwegian Government will do our part to reduce obstacles in Norwegian – African trade relations.
Norway is a small and open economy. Trade is one of the most important driving forces for growth and employment not only in Norway, but also worldwide.
In this Government’s political platform we have stated that we will have a more ambitious trade policy through several priorities.
Naturally, The Ministry of Trade and Industry will continue to develop our trade policy with our most important trading partners in the EU.
But just as important, we will also:
- Seek new free trade agreements through the European Free Trade Association.
Today, most of our trade agreement negotiations are in fact with developing countries. In Africa, we already have free trade agreements with the South African Customs Union, as well as Egypt.
And we look forward to signing a Joint Declaration of Cooperation between Nigeria and the EFTA states, perhaps already at the next EFTA ministerial meeting in November.
- We will also continue to develop and strengthen the good relations between Norway and African countries, for instance by organizing political meetings and visits to our most important partner countries.
- Furthermore, we will improve arrangements that give developing countries better access to Norwegian markets, for instance by engaging in capacity building programs.
- We will also continue to lead the Team Norway-project, which aims to enhance the efforts of the public and private actors that promote Norwegian businesses abroad. One of the initiatives is a stronger focus on trade and economic relations at all Norwegian embassies, also the ones in Africa.
- And finally, as some of you may already know, in early 2014 a new Innovation Norway office will open in Nairobi – which will contribute to opportunities for Norwegian and African businesses.
The next speaker, Finn Kristian Aamot of Innovation Norway, will tell you more about this.
All of these initiatives are based on a clear message from Norwegian companies: They want to go to Africa.
They say Africa is the new land of opportunity. I strongly agree.
I believe that the already productive relation between Norway and Africa has a bright future ahead.
And I am sure - through the existing cooperative spirit – that we will together contribute to Africa’s progress by focusing on investments, business and trade.
One of my favorite African proverb says:
“"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.
To our hosts – the Norwegian-African Business Association:
Thank you for bringing us together here at this event.
I would like to invite Finn Kristian Aamot from Innovation Norway on to the stage to tell you more about how the Innovation Norway office in Nairobi can assist you.
Thank you for your attention.