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Business Forum 2016: Opening Speech von Senator a.D. Ian K. Karan

Opening Speech von Senator a.D. Ian K. Karan, Schirmherr des Africa Day Business Forum 2016, im Grand Hotel Elyseé Hamburg am 26. Mai 2016

Dear Mrs. Gerlich,

Honourable Minister Rashid Pelpuo,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is “Africa Day” again, and I would like to thank the IMIC and Mrs. Gerlich for organising this great event in Hamburg for the fifth year in a row.

In 2014, I had the honour to be the patron of this inspiring intercultural event, and when Mrs. Gerlich invited me to give a word of welcome today, I accepted with great pleasure.

Every year, Africa Day offers a colourful bouquet of music, films, dance performances and events. It enables a truly intercultural exchange between Africans, Afro-Germans and their German friends, and it is a great opportunity to meet and enjoy African culture.

Today’s “Africa Day Business Forum” adds a new dimension to this exciting programme.

The time has come, I daresay, to focus on business as part of the German-African dialogue.

Africa’s economic pulse has quickened within the last decade.

The African GDP is growing steadily.

Incidentally, the International Monetary Fund expects an annual growth rate for Sub Saharan-Africa of 5% between 2016 and 2020.

Countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Mozambique and Tanzania are about to close the gap to the world economy.

It is about time to accept African countries as business partners on equal footing.

Clearly, there is more to Africa than a story about natural resources.

Africa’s positive economic development is based on a variety of reasons.

Political reforms, better business environment, higher commodity prices and a rapidly increasing number of consumers help to place the economic growth on a broad basis.

I am neither a scientist nor a politician.

I am not in a position to give a profoundstatement on what to do to sustain this positive trend in the African countries.

But maybe I can share some thoughts with you which are based on my personal experience.

I was born and raised in Sri Lanka, and I have watched the country’s development closely ever since I migrated to Europe in the early sixties.

Like most African Countries, Sri Lanka is classified by the UN as a developing economy.

Serious conflict between the two main ethnic groups shook the democratic system for years, until the civil war was brought to an end in 2009.

Since then, Sri Lanka has experienced a very positive economic and political development.

However, if the current positive trend is to continue, some issues need to be addressed, mainly regarding infrastructure, corruption, individual rights, and legal protection.

I can imagine that many African countries face similar challenges.

Some African countries do not obtain their true economic potential due to ethnic conflict, corruption and nepotism.

It is my hope that the leaders of all African countries invest in the youth in order to realise the full benefits of their economies.

It is important to keep in mind that economic growth is not a stand-alone objective.

It is equally important to ensure that growth improves the living condition of all its citizens by providing more productive jobs, education opportunities and higher incomes.

As a business man, another major challenge for the African economy is more than evident.

It is the shortage of capital and the need for investments.

International financial organisations have been judging Africa as a reliable investment target for years.

Although investments have increased to some extent, mainly from China, India, Brazil, and the Middle East, a much higher engagement is still needed.

Unfortunately, the major industrial nations still exhibit substantial caution and restraint in investing in Africa – this is also true for Germany.  

It seems that it is time for a change of mind, because the prospects for capital providers are excellent: return-on-investment rates of more than 10% are likely to be achieved.

More than anywhere else in the world.

Micro-financing as well as public-private partnerships might provide opportunities to close the gap.

Africa’s collective long-term prospects are strong, but the differences between the individual countries are considerable.

Each African country will follow its own growth path.

This is also important for potential investors: As the continent is not a homogeneous market, it requires a differentiated view on countries, regions, and the type of industries.

Hamburg has long-standing commercial ties with Africa.

It has been home to the “German-African Business Association” for more than 80 years – a foreign trade association representing German companies with an interest in Africa.

The Hamburg Chamber of Commerce reports more than 800 Hamburg-based companies to have business relations with Africa,
and a considerable number of companies in Hamburg founded and run by Africa-based businessmen.[1]

The „Africa Day Business Forum” is an excellent platform to further strengthen these existing economic relations and to take a closer look on trade and investment opportunities for the future.

I am sure that you will benefit greatly from today’s exchange of ideas and contacts.

Enjoy the talks, business opportunities and discussions today.

Enjoy our wonderful city of Hamburg and the inspiring programme of the following days!

Thank you very much.

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