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Saturday, November 4, 2017

CEIBS Alumni Francophone Africa Chapter Launches in Abidjan

November 4, 2017. Abidjan – The CEIBS Alumni Association Francophone Africa Chapter (CAFAC) launched today with a ceremony in Côte d’Ivoire’s capital, Abidjan, that included school leaders and local dignitaries, CEIBS Africa Alumni Association Executive Council members from the Ghana and Nigeria chapters, and alumni from across the continent. The Francophone Chapter comprises CEIBS alumni from French-speaking countries in Africa, including Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Cameroun and Burundi. It is the third Africa location and 66th around the world to have a CEIBS Alumni Chapter helping to further bring together the school’s 19,000-member global alumni network.

In his opening address at the event, CEIBS Africa Executive Director Professor Mathew Tsamenyi thanked the members of CAFAC for taking this bold step to promote their alma mater in French-speaking countries on the continent. “I applaud you for the great sacrifices you have made,” he said. “I am delighted to see that even though you are from different countries, you have worked together so seamlessly, not only to ensure a successful launch but also to project the name of CEIBS in such a positive way.”

President of CAFAC Mrs. Michèle Feze called on the chapter’s members to create value. “As founding members we have defined our vision for CAFAC to be a leading alumni association with a great business footprint in Africa, China and Europe that creates value for its members and business communities in a socially responsible way,” she said. “The values we have chosen for CAFAC are: ‘Excellence, Commitment, Integrity and Humility.’ It is by living these values, by keeping them at the core of our actions; by strengthening solidarity ties among us that we will achieve the ambitious goals that we have set for ourselves.”

Mrs. Feze added that though their goals are ambitious, the future looks bright for CEIBS’ newest alumni chapter. “The challenge is big, and the stakes are high but I know for sure that we do and will continue to enjoy the ride. Let’s keep the faith.”

Stories of successful entrepreneurs and cooperative ventures between China and Africa were the focus of the inspiring addresses by keynote speakers.

CEIBS President Professor Pedro Nueno spoke about the private sector entrepreneurs who have transformed China’s economy, and the lessons that Africa can learn from their efforts. He also shared some examples of Chinese companies that have successfully gone global, including Lenovo, Geely, Alibaba, and Huawei, and discussed why globalization can help companies grow stronger in their home market.

“As a PhD student at Harvard Business School, I was part of a research team that sought to investigate whether or not going global was good or bad for American companies. What we found was that by going global, these companies were also growing stronger in the United States.” 

Professor Nueno challenged African entrepreneurs to look abroad. “When will African companies go global,” he asked. “If you are an entrepreneur and you have a good business model and this business model is global, then at some point you will have to do it also. Let’s think globally.”

UNIDO Ambassador for Africa Industrialization Ms. Helen Hai spoke about the Present and Future of China-Africa Industrial Cooperation; in particular she touched on the secret of Asia’s economic transformation and whether its lessons could be applied in Africa. Ms. Hai noted that Asian countries successfully captured the window of opportunity that occurred during the 1960s and 1980s when Western-based industries relocated their manufacturing. This created millions of jobs in Asian countries and transformed their economies, in part because job creation is the key for poverty reduction.

Ms. Hai said she is confident that Africa can replicate this success. “According to China’s own forecast, by 2025 it is going to double its GDP per capita, which was 7,500 in 2015. This means that by 2025, China is going to become a high income country. It also means that after 30 years of relying on manufacturing, the Chinese are relocating 85 million jobs. If developing countries can capture a significant amount of these jobs, they will have the same opportunity for economic transformation over the coming 30 years. Southeast Asia does not have the population to absorb all these jobs, so this is a golden opportunity for Africa to provide jobs for its unemployed.”  

Ms. Hai believes that Africa is ready to join the global value chain and start talking about shared global prosperity. She recounted her experience in Ethiopia, where she created more than 4,000 jobs in two years on her own, then worked together with local governments to create even more jobs. Her success prompted other African leaders to approach her to do the same in their countries.

“Success after success has had a really big snow-ball effect. Two years ago I was approached by the President of Rwanda because he wanted to have the same story,” she said. “I have set up a garment factory there and created 2,000 jobs in less than a year; using cotton from Burundi and textiles from Uganda, we make garments for export to the United States. Through industrialization, Rwanda has changed from a land-locked country to a land-connected country. I am now working with the government to build more industrial zones to amplify this. I am also working with the government of Senegal to promote industrialization in that country.”

The Minister of Commerce, Crafts and SME Promotion of Côte d'Ivoire, Honourable Souleymane Diarrassouba, said in his address that he was privileged to be associated with the launch activities of CAFAC in Côte d’Ivoire, and he was particularly happy at how the event brought together Chinese and African businessmen.

“China remains to this day one of the main partners of Ivory Coast,” he said. “The volume of trade between the two countries, from 2012 to 2016 has increased greatly. It went from CFAF 420 billion to CFAF 928 billion, with a trade balance in favour of China of CFAF 843 billion, making it the leading supplier of Côte d'Ivoire with 17.41% of our imports coming from the rest of the world. Chinese investment in Côte d’Ivoire is particularly noteworthy in carrying out work to strengthen drinking water production capacity and infrastructure development such as road construction. China is also engaged in the extension work for the Autonomous Port of Abidjan, with a financial contribution in the project and rehabilitation of the Côte d'Ivoire electricity network.”  

He called on China to consolidate its position as Africa’s main partner in an increasingly competitive international environment by investing heavily in relevant sectors. “This is the time for China to cement its partnership position in Africa,” he said. “It is essential that China invests heavily in Africa’s economic and social infrastructure, urban planning, the construction of affordable housing, luxury hotel facilities, modern conference centres, commercial exhibition centres, and, in particular, the processing industry for agricultural products.”

Besides the keynote speakers, the other important dignitaries who attended the launch event included His Excellency Frederick Daniel Laryea, Ghana’s Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire; His Excellency Ibrahim Isah, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire; Mr. Guy Mbengue, Vice President of the Côte d’Ivoire Business Council Headquarters; and Mr. Désiré Bankole, former Country Director of Technoserve.    

Samuel Ocloo-Dzaba
Janine Coughlin