ACP, unity in diversity
Kenya, South Africa and Cuba, three countries at the focal point of this issue; three countries also belonging to a group formed by the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, numbering 79 in totall. What unites these ACP countries is the common ambition of sustainable development and a gradual integration in the global economy.
Where should we place these three countries in this vast scheme? According to a study published by Havas Horizons and the Choiseul Institute Kenya occupies a steadfast pole position in the ranking of countries most attractive for investors. It is the example of the economic resurgence of Eastern Africa. According to the same study South Africa can rely on a stock market system that is one of the most dynamic in the whole of Africa. It allows companies to easily find the capital they need to ensure growth, while at the same time enabling the State to compensate its deficit.In Cuba the private sector continues its development in areas of trade, mobility, construction and industry. This ‘new economy’ is gradually taking shape and holds encouraging promises for the future of the island.
And so, three – very different – countries show proof of the variety the ACP label offers. Yet, different as they are, what these 79 countries have in common is their offer of a huge emerging global market fuelled by a growing middle class acting as driving force. Nonetheless, while the opportunities are plenty, attention should be given to specific local customs, the different stages of development should be considered, and the assimilation of the economy that was established over the years – be it informal or disrupted – must be paramount. Not to be overlooked either are external phenomena such as humanitarian crises or the fall in commodity prices, of late, both of whichare responsible for noticeably accentuating regional disparities.
On a parallel level, the “Cotonou Agreement”, i.e. the backbone of the partnership between the EU and the ACP countries, regarded as an “innovation” back in the year 2000, has witnessed a modified context in recent times. A new reality exists nowadays, be it geopolitical, security-related or migratory. The fight against terrorism and organised crime is top of mind among authorities to the detriment of economic, social and human aspects.
In view of these many, often conflicting signals a certain caution can’t be thrown to the wind. But if twenty odd years ago investing in ACP countries was labelled as idealism, ignoring them today would be seen as a grave mistake. Even if their intended economic integration into global markets hasn’t led to the expected positive results, these countries today do offer numerous and realistic opportunities. In order to seize these one should view them in all their complexity and nuances without being overly enthusiastic
whilst being mindful of the risks involved. And never forget that a partnership with local players often holds the key to success (knowledge of the local context, relevant human resources,
relationship with the public sector, product development, …).
For the members our Chamber, the CBL-ACP, with its counsellors, its local representatives and bilateral section chiefs, remains – now more than ever – the ultimate bridgehead to start the conquest of emerging economies based on growing diversification and important domestic markets.