IABW 2018, a success that brings Italy closer to Africa

 The second edition of Italia Africa Business Week can be defined “a success” without any hesitation. Those of the 2018 Forum edition are almost double numbers compared to the 2017 edition, officially makes IABW the main and most authoritative Economic and Financial Forum between Italy and Africa,  both quantitative and qualitative terms: over 230 people have registered at Italia Africa Business Week 2018 desks. Institutions, guests, personalities and entrepreneurs from 37 different countries, 10 African diplomatic missions attending to the entire Forum and a total of 15 accredited embassies. 5 sponsoring bodies, 10 prestigious exhibitors such as Bolloré Group and Sanpaolo Invest from Intesa Sanpaolo, 3 major sponsors such Enel Green Power, CNH Industrial and Brussels Airlines and 6 media partners: numbers that unequivocally demonstrates the interest of Italy, no longer timid, towards the African continent and its economy and also the desire of Italy that from all over Africa was manifested by the delegations arrived in Rome. Italia Africa Business Week 2018 was possible thanks to the organization and commitment of the Association Le Reseau, the collaboration of Confindustria Assafrica and Mediterraneo, publisher Internationalia and with the sponsorship of the Italian Agency for Cooperation and Development (AICS), Unioncamere, Enea, Confederazione Nazionale delle Piccole e Medie Imprese (CNA). From the media-communication point of view, IABW was talked by four of the main press agencies in italian, the Sole24Ore, the main economic newspaper, and the laRepubblica economy section, the first italian generalist newspaper, as well as several vertical online magazines focused on African economics, fashion and cooperation: Opinion-Public, InfoAfrica, Mam-e, IlSicilia on all, which have guaranteed a 360-degree coverage. The interest shown by the national media is, in part, a reflection of the Italian interest on Africa, which must be better told in the perspective of a narrative that is more adherent to reality, multidirectional and multidisciplinary. During the opening conference, Emanuela Del Re, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Italian Republic, underlined, in her video-speech, the value of Italian direct investments in the African continent, amounting to 11.6 billion dollars in 2017: today Italy is the first European and the third globally investor in Africa. However, Italian exports to North Africa amounted to 2.8% and to the rest of the continent to 1.2%, data almost equal to those of 10 years ago. Carlo Robiglio, president of Piccola Industria and vice-president of Confindustria, underlined the value of small and medium-sized enterprises in Africa: 97% of Italian companies operating in the continent are SMEs. The Italian small and medium business model, Robiglio explained, responds perfectly to African needs: the Italian presence in Africa is adaptable and flexible, the bearer of a model of industrial development that transforms raw materials locally through credible and solid business partnerships, above all within the development programs of the various African countries over a medium-term horizon. In 2016 Italian investments in Africa accounted for 4.3% of total global investments in the continent and the trend is growing year after year. Giorgio Marrapodi, Director General for Development Cooperation at MAECI, underlined the intrinsic added value of cooperation with numbers: in 2018 Africa will absorb 182 million Euros in donations and 288 million in aid credits; Italian cooperation intervenes in 22 different countries, 11 of which in Africa, in sectors such as food security and public health, with a great focus on women, education and training. Resources and investments that are directed by the Italian Cooperation, which must be added the offers of the various UN agencies, of the European Union (12% of European development contributions are Italian) from development banks, with which the Italian system interweave privileged, serious, lasting relationships. In addition to this is added the support to the micro and small business, but also to the cooperative sector, guaranteed by the Development Cooperation, which in recent times also focuses on the development of supply chains, such as tomato in Egypt or coffee in Ethiopia. However, as pointed out by Giuseppe Mistretta during the opening conference, much of the Italian contribution to Africa – in economic terms – still comes from large Italian industrial groups and is instead very limited that of SMEs: Italy, without a system of financial support that allows small and medium-sized enterprises to compete in the world, today more than ever needs banks and financial institutions that favor the entry of Italian companies on the African continent. Roberta Datteri, vice-president of the Confederazione Nazionale dell’Artigianato (CNA), underlining the change of perspective that Italian companies have long adopted towards Africa, has described the heterogeneity of opportunities for small businesses, opportunities that can be also cultured with micro-models of vertical business that allow companies to move in contexts and scenarios not well known but stable and economically interesting, going beyond those stereotypes that reduce the range of opportunities. The Italian business model is a win-win model that creates local development, also through job creation, and produces growth for the same companies: Saida Neghza, president of Businessmed (18,000 companies in 22 countries of the Mediterranean), remembered that partnerships in sectors such as agriculture, tourism and energy are at the heart of the Italian experience in Africa. Recently, the Italian government has announced a national investment plan in Africa to increase resources and enhance transport, renewable energy and water networks, referring to the allocation in the European Union of 4 billion euro to be invested in the next five years with the goal of creating 10 million jobs. This curiosity and ability to attract each other was evident during the B2B meetings organized on both days of IABW Forum, meetings that saw Italian entrepreneurs and companies launch the first real active look at Africa and African counterparts open their doors to create partnerships winning and fruiting for both parties. More than 20 official B2B meetings are organized during IABW but this number grows a lot if we consider the uninterrupted networking activities during the two days  event. According to Marie Chantal Uwitonze, president of the African Diaspora Network-Europe, in 2017 European investments in Africa amounted to € 35 billion. Figures that are important but much lower than what is the contribution of Africans in the diaspora in Europe, a figure that represents real development cooperation: € 70 billion a year. This is why the Diaspora is central to the construction of new bridges between the two shores of the Mediterranean. Just the youngs, and in particular the diaspora and the new Afro-Italian youth, are the main users, actors and beneficiaries of partnerships and cultural and economic contacts between Italy and Africa. The “return” to the reign of childhood or origin, the attachment to the double root and the pride of belonging to two distinct cultures are all elements that characterize a confusion of identity that often sublimates into positive energy, in the desire to represent, and represent itself, within a unique cultural double track. The identity of young Afro-Italians is also created in the context of a “normality” that today is always better codified, and accompanied, within the economic relations between Italy and Africa. Precisely for this reason the university world can not ignore the potential of the new Afro-italians generation: present at IABW 2018 there were in fact Professor Emanuela Mora of the Catholic University of Milan and Professor Daniela Piscitelli, vice president of the International Council of Design and professor associate of the University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli, who attended the conference “Made in Italy, African textile and fashion: which direction?“, the director of the Unesco chair of Biotechnology and Bioethics of the University of Tor Vergata Vittorio Colizzi and the CEO of Morer Innovator Consultancy Plc and collaborator of the University of Bologna on behalf of the University of Mekele Kelali Adhana Tekle, both participants in the conference “Africa in the era of industry 4.0: technology and biomedical“, a sign of how education and culture are an integral part in the formation of the new Afro-Italians and Afrodescendents. The importance of the new generations and the diaspora, as well as the need for quality investments, was underlined in all three IABW diplomatic interventions by the mission heads of the embassies of Egypt and Ivory Coast and the deputy head Uganda’s embassy mission. The impact of investments on local populations in Africa, in place of aid and also outside development cooperation, has been analyzed in depth with a study by the LCA Department of Agricultural Law at the round table on “Investments and social impact“. The panel “Business models, investment structuring, tax aspects and taxpayers’ rights” was highly appreciated by the speech by Nii Ayi Aryeetey, President of the West African Accountants Association (WAUTI), which outlined the West Africa tax and contribution panorama fully interpreting the need for legislative simplification of Italian entrepreneurs and startuppers of the new generations, who in investing seek above all speed, simplicity and security, a position strongly supported also by new realities in the panorama European as Crowe Valente, advisory and strategic consultant in tax matters. The importance of Afro-Italian youth has been emphasized several times by the Executive President of Italia Africa Business Week Cleophas Adrien Dioma, who indicated as an example of enthusiasm that shown by the staff who worked to realize the 2018 edition of IABW. During the two days of IABW, 17 and 18 October 2018, were held 8 high-level conferences, 6 round tables and 1 workshop attended by high-profile guests and an attentive and participatory public. All the meetings were focused on the analysis and deepening for the creation of those cultural and economic bridges, necessary for mutual development and growth: CNA World is the international container of 12,000 non-EU companies (2500 African) created by the National Confederation of craftsmanship in order to facilitate relations through the wide availability of information on markets and local contexts. The objective is to better convey information on access to credit, on the local legislative and social scene, to give answers to the needs of those who do business and want to access other markets: a role, that of facilitator, which is not really only by CNA but also by the Italian Development Cooperation Agency, the most active in the European panorama, which currently finances and co-finances throughout the African continent thousands of start-up and training projects in entrepreneurship.  

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