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Interview with Dr. Stefan Mair, Executive Board Member of BDI e.V.

Africa is undergoing a process of change and Dr. Stefan Mair of the BDI e.V. Executive Board believes that the G20's Compact with Africa will help to integrate African states further into the global economy.

The Federation of German Industries, one of the organizers of this year’s B20 calls Africa a Continent of Opportunities. Not all share this judgement. Why do you believe in Africa?

Africa is undergoing a process of change! It is time for a different perception of the continent and to see Africa more in the light of a highly promising economic partner and future market instead of merely as the recipient of development aid. The fact, that there are still severe problems does not eliminate the fact, that there are many opportunities - for local as well as foreign companies and investors. We must never lose sight of the fact that Africa is made up of 54 states, which can differ widely from each other. Investing in African countries and using the opportunities at hand helps creating overall conditions, which will be to the benefit of both, the African people and industry.

Also we as BDI are active on the continent. Currently we have two partnership projects in East Africa with the East African Business Council (EABC) running. One aims at strengthen EABC and the voice of the private sector in East Africa. The other projects pursues to increase productivity, competitiveness, and innovation in primarily small and medium enterprises (SME) and connect them with German SMEs.


African nations still play a marginal role in world trade. In particular, intra-Africa trade is still comparatively low to other regions. What needs to be done to foster trade?

Africa needs to facilitate intra-African trade by cutting back on import taxes and deregulation through the intensification of regional integration. Since the beginning of this century, especially since the beginning of the negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union in 2002, big steps have been taken towards regional integration all over Africa. But at the moment it seems that the process of integration came to a halt. While it exists on paper, in parts of Africa implementation is on hold.


Digitalization may be a chance to integrate African states more into the global economy. What is the key ingredient to successful digital strategies for African countries?

Digitalization alone is not enough. In order to create jobs, it needs to go hand in hand with entrepreneurship and industrialization. Digitalization offers a lot of chances for Africa to fight poverty and improve the life of the people. It can make healthcare cheaper and more accessible for many or can render agriculture more efficient. It can also help the people to access information and therefore strengthen civil society, forcing governments to work more transparently.


There have been many partnerships with Africa before. Is the G20 Compact with Africa Initiative any different? Why should this initiative succeed while many before it have failed?

The Compact with Africa has been developed between interested African countries, international organisations and partner countries. It needs to be put emphasis on the fact that African countries themselves had to apply in order to participate. It is up to every African compact-country to decide what reforms it will implement. Therefore, the G20 Compact with Africa Initiative differs from other plans that have been developed by foreign governments without African participation. The engagement of African states in the initiative is a key factor for its success.

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