Enabel and the private sector, an engine for inclusive growth

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Enabel, the Belgian development agency, implements and coordinates Belgium’s international development policy on behalf of the Belgian government.
The agency is mandated to execute Belgium’s governmental cooperation with fourteen partner countries, mainly in Africa. Enabel also carries out actions for other donors, such as the European Union, the World Bank and the UNDP. With 1400 staff, 70% of whom are local employees, Enabel manages some 150 development projects totalling annual disbursements of 200 million euro.

Sustainable Development Goals

The Belgian international development has in recent years increasingly focused on partnerships with other players, including the private sector. This is in line with the renewed development paradigm created by the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, with international development cooperation shifting from a North versus South approach to a global engagement from all countries to reach the SDGs.

In Belgium, the private sector, civil society, the academic world and the public sector all signed the Belgian SDG Charter for International Development.
This creates a great opportunity for everyone involved to go beyond corporate social responsibility and analyse how each can be engaged in this new dynamic.

Global partnerships

“We are living in a globalised world where borders fade away between countries, between the private and the public sector, between business and international development,” explains Jean Van Wetter, Managing Director of Enabel. “Whilst this creates new challenges, it is also an excellent opportunity to join forces, exchange expertise and share ideas in order to find sustainable and innovative solutions.”

Belgium’s international development
policy focuses on two complementary axes:
a rights-based approach, and inclusive economic growth. Since the private
sector and entrepreneurship are the drivers of this growth, Enabel puts particular
emphasis on the development of the local private sector: Enabel provides support to improve the business climate in partner countries, strengthens economic value chains and entrepreneurs’ capacities, and stimulates local and foreign investment. In times in which digital tools become more and more important, it is crucial to provide opportunities to local entrepreneurs by supporting their digital solutions, especially in countries with huge growth potential.


Enabel reinforces capacities in the port of Conakry, Guinea © Enabel/Colin Delfosse

What does Enabel offer?

Successful entrepreneurship is only possible when the necessary basic infrastructure is in place, if the business climate is favourable, the workforce is skilled and adapted to the needs of the labour market,
if value chains are organised and strengthened, if market access is facilitated and when entrepreneurs’ capacities are strengthened. Themes on which Enabel has significant experience in its partner countries.

Working mainly in countries and territories where economic fragility can hinder partnership and foreign investment opportunities, the objective of Enabel is to improve the business environment to significantly reduce risks and foster the emergence of economic opportunities for local entrepreneurs and, through them, for everyone.
This is done for instance by improving infrastructure. In Congo, for example, where bad road conditions are a major obstacle to accessing markets and selling products, Enabel invests in roads to create better access and thus more opportunities for local businesses.

Processed mangoes in a factory in Kindia, Guinea © Enabel/Colin Delfosse

Five new cooperation programmes

The new cooperation programmes that Belgium signed in 2018 with Burkina Faso, Guinea, Benin, Senegal and Rwanda each develop a strategy in line with national priorities for, among others, economic development. For example, in Senegal, Enabel supports the industrialisation of the agri-food sector.  means the creation of fully equipped agro-industrial parks integrated into road and maritime transport networks and financial and judicial support for the structuring of the fleet management system.

Enabel’s role is therefore complementary to that of other organisations promoting the private sector, such as Credendo, Finexpo or BIO-invest, as well as investment funds.

Jean Van Wetter: “This new international cooperation paradigm also requires new partnerships. I am convinced that the effectiveness of our action will require close relations with the private sector.”