UK businesses are set to benefit from an enhanced trade relationship with Francophone Africa, as a new trade and investment forum is established to unlock opportunities across the region.
The inaugural meeting of the UK-Francophone West and Central Africa Trade and Investment Forum is set to kick off in London from Wednesday, October 19. It will welcome senior politicians and business leaders from across eight different countries.
The two-day inter-governmental event will be hosted by London-based DMA Invest in partnership with the Department for International Trade and UK Export Finance.
Discussions will focus on how businesses can seize new potential opportunities across the nations that have had little history of trade with the UK and foster new profitable relationships.
DMA Invest CEO Atam Sandhu said: “The many French-speaking West and Central African countries have been historically under-represented by British industry. This, however, has been a trend in reverse for several years, culminating in June’s ascension to the Commonwealth of Gabon and Togo.
“DMA Invest and HMG have discussed this for many years. The timing and appetite was right and we began planning.
The eight countries represented at the event include the West Africa power houses of Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire, Central Africa’s Cameroon and the extraordinarily diverse economies of Benin, Niger and Guinea.”
Atam added: “Countries who have had little diplomatic presence in the UK are opening embassies with commercial diplomacy teams, Togo and Gabon are officially joining the Commonwealth during the week of our event – there’s a buzz in the airports and hotels in the region and embassies in the UK are reporting more business visas issued than ever before.”
Demand for the event has been so strong that a limit has been placed on the number of delegates from each business able to attend.
“This is not something we have had to do with any other international trade-focused event and shows just how positive the mood is in relation to the region being open for business,” said Atam.
“This really is a departure to all that has come before in terms of a non-Anglophone approach.”
His Majesty’s Trade Commission for Africa, John Humphrey said: “UK Export Finance has witnessed a growing interest in French-speaking West and Central African markets – an appetite which has seen consistent year on year increases. Recent successes in these markets include an award-winning and record financing facility for primary healthcare in Cote d’Ivoire and an innovative infrastructure financing facility in Cameroon.”
In addition to governmental presence, 300 well-capitalised, multi-disciplinary British companies with an interest in emerging markets and expertise in banking, finance, infrastructure development, healthcare, education, clean energy, agro-processing, legal services, pharmaceuticals, de-carbonisation and FMCG are going to be present to see for themselves the scale of opportunity.