It was an important meeting for the Belgian private sector, its first economic mission to the African continent since the beginning of the pandemic. Despite the cancellation of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde’s planned visit to Kinshasa in early March – due to the war in Ukraine – business leaders were able to travel to the Congolese capital on March 19.
More than 80 companies quickly followed the invitation of the three regional funding agencies Walloon Export and Investment Agency (Awex), Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) and hub.brussels for the federal capital. The opportunity to find his way back to Africa and “to be part of his economic recovery in this post-Covid era,” explains Eric De Clercq, continent head for Awex, which took care of the organization after Kinshasa (orchestrated by hub.brussels). of the mission deployed to Kigali from March 25-31.
Jeune Afrique: How has the Belgian private sector in general and Wallonia in particular reacted to this mission – the first in a long time – in Africa?
Eric De Clercq: He answered presently and even showed a certain impatience. As a symbol of this expectation, the vast majority of the companies involved in this trip had signed up for the mission planned for 2020 and had canceled due to health reasons. Trade with DR Congo remains important for our companies, which at the same time benefit from easy access to their market in a variety of sectors, as this mission is organized in Kinshasa in parallel with the Belgian one.
In which sectors do companies stand out?
Life sciences in general, education and health, together with transport infrastructure, are at the heart of the priorities announced at the last European Union-African Union (EU-AU) Summit held in Brussels in February as part of the European Global Gateway initiative [Portail mondial].
Our African students form a strong link between Belgium and their countries of origin
Belgium is represented in this project by Team Europe [le regroupement de plusieurs institutions de l’UE, dont la Banque européenne d’investissement], to best meet the needs expressed by Africa. For example, some of our companies are involved in the project to build an anti-Covid vaccine production facility in Dakar.
What is the weight and role of the African diaspora in the private sector?
The diaspora was very strongly represented in this mission. Many of its members are now entrepreneurs, while others hold positions of responsibility in large corporations in the country. You take an active part in the interests of our companies for the continent. Our African students also make a strong connection to their country of origin.
What special features does the offer of the private sector have in comparison to these other partner countries in Africa?
Belgium is a small, humble and unpretentious country capable of adapting to the demands of its African partners. Africans are also very aware that we are a multicultural and multilingual country.