Beijing Hosts AFCHAM’s 1st Conference on African Growth and Opportunities

The conference, the first of its kind, took place on Wednesday November 30th 2016 in Novotel, Wangfujing in the heart of Beijing. Dignitaries attending the conference included diplomats from embassies of African countries in China such as Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Benin, Rwanda and South Sudan. Mr. Dee Zhang, international department deputy director, represented the China-Africa Industrial Forum and China WTO Africa Affairs Committee. Vice president Tian Wenhui represented the China-Asia Economic Development Association. CEOs of companies doing business in Africa, leaders of governmental and non-governmental organizations in China working in Sino-African relations, young entrepreneurs, researchers as well media personnel, in 5hours, examined issues regarding business and development in Africa from three perspectives; agribusiness, urban infrastructure and energy.   The African Chamber of Commerce (AFCHAM) organized the conference as a first of a series of upcoming conferences aimed at gathering stakeholders in Africa’s booming construction industry. Opening the conference, AFCHAM’s sitting chairperson D. Nkwetato Tamonkia delivered a speech in which he emphasized mainly on the need for all plans on the development of Africa to involve Africans. He frowned on policies made for Africa outside the continent without the participation of Africans. “Build with Africans” He put it in short. He called on companies doing business in Africa to “grab but grab with care, care for the environment, care for the underprivileged and care for social issues.” Among other things, he announced the introduction of the AFCHAM Corporate Social Responsibility program to help companies and organizations have a more positive impact on the African society.   The conference moderator Mr. Daniel Ntui, chief strategist at AFCHAM, lauded the efforts and sacrifices attendees had made in order to be present at the conference. He introduced six keynote speakers who made presentations on six different topics: IMG_1423 Ms. Ada Shiferaw, the first keynote speaker from Ethiopia, talked about the abundant opportunities for business and growth in agribusiness in Africa. Drawing from her experience working with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Mechanization Sciences, she presented stunning facts and figures showing fertile areas for investment in the sector.   The next keynote speaker was an experienced South African agro-business entrepreneur Mr. Buyambo Mantashe who elaborated on some of the points that had been raised by the previous speaker and drew particular attention to investment opportunities in South Africa. He highlighted recent measures taken by the South African government to facilitate the growth of the agribusiness sector. He pledged his availability and unconditional support for any projects investors had in mind for Africa in general and South Africa in particular.   Architect Daan Roggeveen; founder of More Architecture took to the floor next, to share his research experiences on urbanization in China and Africa. The Dutchman juxtaposed urban growth in China with that of Africa using as case study, one of his projects, the ongoing Accra city expansion mega project, a project he hoped could become a point of reference for similar projects in future in Africa.   The next presentation was on the recently launched AFCHAM Corporate Social Responsibility program. The program was presented to participants at the conference by the duo Emily Yeates and Tova Levin from the United Kingdom and the United States respectively and both working at AFCHAM. The two young ladies explained the objectives and advantages of the program. They said the CSR rating system developed by AFCHAM would henceforth distinguish companies doing business in Africa while giving back to the society from companies only interested in exploiting resources without any care for the society. Many representatives of large companies at the conference immediately rushed to consult the paperwork for the CSR program that had been laid out prior to the conference.   The last segment of the conference had two keynote speakers. First, the Global Marketing Director of GCL System Integration Technology Co., Ltd Algerian-born Mr. Laid Sahraoui drilled the audience on the indispensability of energy, especially solar energy, to the development of Africa. He reproved the popular belief that solar energy was expensive and not affordable to the poor by illustrating how cheap, available and easy to set-up the technology had become. He presented small, medium and large-scale quick plug-and-play solar energy solutions which he believed could go a long way to curb frequent outages in Africa as well as provide off-grid, remote and or enclave areas with energy while saving cost as the case is in Northern African countries.   The last keynote speaker for the day was the founder and Managing Director of SIVECO China, Mr. Bruno Lhopiteau. The Frenchman drew from his 18-year experience in maintenance consultancy to show the disparate approaches in construction by Chinese and Western construction companies while pointing out the merits and demerits of both approaches. Stressing on the importance of ensuring the sustainability of infrastructure, he outlined the fact that many countries in Africa allow construction companies to engage in multi-million dollar projects without taking into consideration this aspect only to find out later that more money needs to be spent on huge repairs or entire malfunctioning facilities need to be abandoned.   The quality of questions participants asked at the end of each presentation was good proof of how enriching and enlightening the conference had been. As the conference came to an end, participants, eager to mingle and socialize with other participants were seen shaking hands, hugging and exchanging business cards while the stage was cleared for souvenir picture poses in front of the backdrop with AFCHAM partners, member companies and sponsors.   The after conference party was an exquisite inter-continental buffet style dinner at the VIP dining section of the hotel which lasted until late. Big thumbs up to team AFCHAM as absentees itch for the second conference which sources close to AFCHAM management say will likely be coming up early in 2017.