Readying the private sector for the African Continental Free Trade Area |13 May 2022
The Ministry of Investment, Entrepreneurship and Industry (MIEI) is currently spearheading an investor map project in Seychelles in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
In order to have a comprehensive consultation on the ease of doing business in Seychelles, a breakfast meeting was co-organised by the MIEI and the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) yesterday at the Savoy Hotel, Beau Vallon.
The event brought together government and private sector officials, business men and women, UNDP and SCCI representatives who discussed items relating to readying the Seychelles private sector for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and strengthening private sector capacities for innovative financing.
David Mueller, the Investment Map specialist at UNDP, expressed his satisfaction about the meeting. “We are very excited about what we have been seeing since Tuesday. I think the conversations of this meeting, in addition to the ones that happened during the week, shows that there is a real readiness both from the private sector side and the government. We believe that the MIEI is ready to listen to the private sector and wants to utilise also the capacities that the private sector has. As UNDP we are pleased to provide technical support to this process, and we think that the investor map is one of the concrete tools that allows us to understand where are the investment opportunities, where can the private capital contribute to the national development strategy. It will be a tool to implement those priorities.”
Charles Morin, consultant at the Ministry of Finance, talked about the continental fishing agreement and the discussions among the various stakeholders. He noted that the discussions went well although he felt that there are more concerns that the private sector should have brought up.
“The meeting is happening at the right time as Seychelles is already part of these agreements since August 2021. The negotiations are still on but in the agreement there are many opportunities for the private sector to take on. Africa has a population of 1.5 billion and a GDP of close to 3.5 trillion dollars. These figures already show us the potential in Africa and today Seychelles is a member of SADC (Southern African Development Community), Comesa (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) and the African Union (AU). We have a market access. The continental fishing agreement is already an alternate market for us to get into other African countries where we do not have an agreement. If ever one day we lose the agreement with the European Union, we should have an alternate market.”
Mr Morin shared that the agreement contains many tools that the producers can use.
“This will be an opportunity for the companies to upload their products and how competitive the products are. After the meeting, I believe the government will gather all information and see how it can assist the private sector to grow and expand, creating jobs.”
Mr Morin stated that before this meeting, the private sector was consulted all along to gather their thoughts and concerns.
Keith André, representative of the domestic fisheries – semi industrial and artisanal – shared that they participated in the discussions with the representatives of UNDP since Tuesday where they were able to share their views on investment possibilities and the work done so far to achieve the sustainable development goals.
“We see this as a great opportunity to be invited in such a forum where we got to meet all the stakeholders. We were able to bring forward our challenges in our sector but also learned about the difficulties of other sectors. In Seychelles, many businessmen went to meet with different ministries, but we were not understood. With the new Minister Devika Vidot, she is using a different approach and through her ministry, I am sure the different businesses will benefit.”
Mr André noted that he also went through many challenges. “Our sector – the semi industrial fishing – want to grow. For the first time Seychellois boat owners are trying to take ownership of what we call ‘the blue gold’ in tuna fishing. But we are struggling and we want the playing field to be levelled. This forum will help us attain the sustainability in our fisheries.”
He also talked about access to finance. “There are funds available but directed to the wrong sector. We really need to sit down with the businessmen from the different sectors and see what the reality is and what we really need. Today we all came together and it is high time to bring our ideas into actions and look into our production cost to make our products more competitive.”
To recall, a high level delegation from the UNDP, led by the resident representative for Seychelles and Mauritius, Amanda Serumaga, has been in Seychelles this week to have discussions with key stakeholders on how to better attract investment into the country.