With eyes set on establishing contacts and exploring business and investment opportunities, Chambers of Commerce of West Africa and the Spanish Chambers of commerce have met on the Spanish Island of Gran Canaria.
The maiden forum is further aimed at brainstorming ways to improve partnership and trade among the chambers in Spain and predominantly West Africa.
Being held for the first time under the auspices of the Cámara de Comercio de Gran Canaria the forum assembled the national chambers of commerce of eight West African states, multilateral institutions, academia, the private sector and the media to dialogue on ways to consolidate the trade relationship between Gran Canaria & Spain with the African members.
The forum was attended by several chambers from the neighbouring West African countries including; Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, Senegal and Mauritania. The large African participation enabled Canarian companies to cover key countries for potential investments across the chambers and the two continents.
With tourism being one of the priority areas, the speakers included the Reginal Director of Africa at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Elcia Grandcourt and the Director of Membership at World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Adolfo Reyes.
The forum is first of many between Africa and Spain to explore ingenious ways of encouraging trade among the chambers, with more than a dozen Spanish chambers of commerce in attendance.
Addressing the gathering, the President of Cámara de Comercio de Gran Canaria, Luis Padron said Africa is taking its place in the international business circle. He said the coming into force of AfCFTA is an added reason to the attractiveness of Africa.
“With this event, we pursue a double purpose, that Spanish companies make the Canary Islands visible as a reference place for their businesses on the African continent, and that African companies make the Canary Islands visible to their business with Spain,” Padrón explained.
Speaking further, the Cámara de Comercio de Gran Canaria President said on the other hand, the forum, “promotes rapprochement between the Spanish and African chamber structures, establishing solid, stable and highly professional relationships, which allow us to identify and take advantage of business opportunities between our two regions.”
He said presently the island is connected with 10 direct flights to Africa and it also bears testament to the strong linkages between the two; Africa and Spanish chambers of commerce.
“I will like to urge all institutions to harness the strategy of making Gran Canaria the gateway to Africa,” he said, noting further that there are strategies to better capture funding from EU to support projects under the forum.
Reflecting on the strength and credibility of the Chamber, he said, “We have 50.000 companies as members of the chamber. This is backed by the law of the island, which mandates all the companies to be members of the chamber.
“We are also a member of the Latin America Chamber of Commerce, FEWACE and World Trade Organisation”.
According to him, “The main activity of the chambers is to represent the interests of the companies at various government levels”.
On the objective of partnership with African chambers of commerce, he explained that the move is aimed at, “improving flight connections between the island and African countries to enable more business exchanges”.
There are also 21 maritime connections and 21 African ports on the island to facilitate more mutual exchanges.
The areas of investment include; training, health, tourism and consultancy. They also hope to help the African hotel sector with management, training and consultancy to increase their business.
To woo Spanish investors to Africa hospitality sector, he advised that, “Tourism Ministries in Africa must do urbanistic planning for tourism to enable Spanish companies to come and invest.
“Spanish companies need clarity on investment procedures, safety of their investments and returns to invest in Africa”.
However, the choice of African chambers of commerce, according to him, is because, “I trust in the African market because it is easier to enter and establish your company than in other continents like Europe and Latin America”.
On the choice of the seven chambers of commerce that participated in the meeting, he noted that, “We chose the seven countries based on their political and economic stability.
He hopes to visit Africa in February, starting with Ghana and Ivory Coast to meet the chambers, exchange and brainstorm on areas of mutual interests and
Meanwhile, the forum, which is the first meeting of chambers of commerce of Spain and West Africa, makes the Canary Islands visible as a business hub between both regions.
Apart from the eight African chambers of commerce, the forum was attended by a dozen Spanish chambers of commerce and more than 70 companies from both continents.
Speaking at the maiden edition of the forum president, president of the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce, Farman Toure, indicated that the meeting would help strengthen cooperation both in business and in training.
“We do not have to look far for what we have so close. The African continent has the need to industrialize its raw materials and, to do so, they need investors. The ideal is to do it with close partners,” Toure concluded.
Highlighting the critical role in building a robust tourism sector for the Africa region, Elcia Grandcourt encouraged the actors in the tourism sector to prioritize sustainability, innovation and tourism education to drive the economies. ‘’We must Promote and prioritize sustainable tourism practices anchored on economic, social, and environmental impacts. Emphasize the importance of the triple bottom line: people, planet, and prosperity ”she noted.
Added to the institutional representation at the forum were more than 40 Canarian and 30 African companies, which participated in B2B meetings and networking activities as an ideal platform to establish contacts and explore business and investment opportunities.