Nordic-African Business Summit explores mutual opportunities

Cape Town - The Nordic-African Business Summit took place in Oslo earlier in December and was hosted by the Norwegian-African Business Association (Naba).

It was attended by around 400 African and Norwegian leaders, including 20 ambassadors from Norway and Africa and sessions focused on finance, renewable energy, agriculture, ITC, fisheries, oil and gas.

According to Eivind Fjeldstad, managing director Naba, the importance of having such a Nordic-African business summit is because nine of the world’s 20 fastest growing economies are in Africa.

In addition, African nations host the world’s youngest, most rapidly urbanising population.

"Norway is committed to continue to build trade relations with the African continent. The Norwegian-African Business Summit, in its fifth consecutive year, has been so successful that it has now become the Nordic-African Business Summit. The summit is an annual platform where policy makers, investors, business leaders and other stakeholders from the Nordic and African countries, can convene, share knowledge and expertise on how to best navigate the new investment landscapes in the Nordics and on the African continent," said Fjeldstad.  

According to Arne Cartridge, executive director of Grow Africa, by 2050, Africa will be home to one- fifth of the world’s population. Not only does the continent have the world’s fastest growing population, but also the youngest.

"This rapid growth, combined with a strong trend towards urbanisation, poses both challenges and opportunities. The labour-intensive agricultural sector can become an engine for this transformative change. Agriculture and agribusiness together are projected to be a $1trn sector in sub-Sahara Africa by 2030," explained Cartridge.

"Yara International, the world’s largest fertiliser company, sees this potential and has since 2005 been committed long-term through knowledge and capacity building and has played a key role in the development of the Grow Africa partnership platform that was set up in 2011 by the African Union and the World Economic Forum. To date Grow Africa has helped mobilise more than $10bn in new investments into African agriculture."

Øystein Botillen, manager of global initiatives at Yara and Naba chair, said the Nordic countries have a long and prosperous history of managing their natural resources, of which fisheries, forestry, oil and gas, aquaculture, energy (including renewables) are some the most significant ones.  

"Yara International’s core business is agriculture - the sector in which more than two-thirds of the African population is involved – and also the sector with the greatest opportunity to stimulate broad based economic growth on the continent. If we look back to the beginning of the previous century, you will see where our expertise comes from. Yara was founded in 1905 to fight the desperate food shortage situation in Europe at the time," said Botillen.

"Today, more than 100 years later, we are committed to the same cause: feeding a growing population while looking after the environment. Norway’s crop nutrition knowledge, spearheaded by Yara’s long-term commitment to food security and agricultural development is one concrete industrial example of where the Nordic countries can offer expertise. With our heritage and in line with the Nordic values, we believe in sharing knowledge and expertise as a way of doing business."

For Botillen it seems obvious that farmers in Africa will increasingly play a more important role, not only for growth and development on the continent itself, but increasingly also in global food and agribusiness.

"Norway and Yara have a long history of agricultural research and knowledge. Our capabilities combined with the local know how will help farmers improve their businesses, and contribute to increased food security for  the continent. I, therefore believe, we will see more agriculture related business between Africa and Norway in the near future," Botillen told Fin24.  
 
Fjeldstad added that the Nordic history and expertise in agriculture and energy are clearly two opportunities with more opportunities also in finance, renewable energy, ITC and fisheries.
"Given the level of engagement at the summit, I am certain that there are opportunities within all these sectors. Some are just perhaps more explored than others," said Fjeldstad.