Director of the Rebranding Africa Forum (RAF), whose 8th edition will be held in Brussels from October 20 to 21, Cameroonian Paule-Renée Etogo explains, in this interview, the main lines of the next edition and recalls the importance of the RAF, an event that would like to continue to assert its leadership on the major issues underlying the development and emergence of the continent.
The 8th edition of the RAF will focus on the issue of the attractiveness of the continent. Why did you choose this topic?
It is true that in view of the sudden interest of economic powers in Africa, it may seem paradoxical to devote the 2022 edition of the RAF to the issue of the continent’s attractiveness. The latter being visibly evident. However, there is a catch. Indeed, one of the main drawbacks of this classic attractiveness of Africa, to put it in a lapidary way, is that the continent remains comparable to that of a cash cow, whose existence has meaning and utility for the beneficiaries only as long as it produces milk. The question is therefore how to get Africa out of this cow-like attractiveness, with variable geometry, devoid of real prospects for its socio-economic development? How can we build a genuine attractiveness, that of an economic actor who develops strategies to attract partners, no longer to extract and export its resources in their raw state, but to extract and transform them itself before use or export? Only those countries that manage to develop competitive local industries and thus add value to their raw materials will be able to really take advantage of this attractiveness. It is in the light of these requirements that the 8th edition of the Rebranding Africa Forum aims to analyze the strategies (or lack of strategies) of attractiveness of African countries, to list the best practices and to formulate recommendations for the use of States and non-state actors, investors, banks, insurers, companies, and other experts etc., who will be meeting in Brussels on October 21, 2022.
What will be the particularity of this second edition of the RAF post-COVID?
For this post-Covid edition, we have first the institutional anchoring of the Rebranding Africa Forum. Indeed, after the mythical Gothic room of the City Hall of Brussels in 2019, it is the turn of the emblematic hemicycle of the Parliament of the French community of Belgium to host the Rebranding Africa Forum. The 8th edition of the RAF will take place in the chamber reserved for the vote of the laws of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. An additional symbol of the institutional anchoring of the Rebranding Africa Forum, considered as the largest economic forum in Belgium dedicated to Africa. But also a symbol of the renewed partnership between Belgium and Africa.
Then, as usual, we will have high-level speakers. In particular, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Belgian Ministers of State, Julien PALUKU Minister of Industry of the DR Congo. In addition to these leading political actors, the RAF will also have outstanding technocrats as keynote speakers: Sidi Ould TAH, Director General of the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa. Simon TIEMTORE, President of Lilium Capital & Vista Bank Group, Anthony NKINZO, Director of ANAPI (Agence congolaise pour la promotion des investissements) as well as Wankele MENE, Secretary General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ZLECAF) to name a few.
The RAF is focused on improving Africa’s image and promoting its assets more effectively. What improvements have you seen since the RAF was launched?
One of our proudest achievements is that through the Rebranding Africa Awards, we have succeeded in highlighting technological innovators who are now benchmarks and lanterns that light the way for our common development. Of course, a lot of work remains to be done, but we can praise the steps taken which, from our point of view, are steps forward in this quest for a better future for our continent. The number of sponsors that keeps increasing over the years is a good example. We started with 8 sponsors, 4 partners, 10 media in 2014 for about thirty sponsors, partners and media in 2021. Without forgetting to mention that in 7 years, we have also witnessed several successes that reinforce our optimism. As a reminder, during the RAF 2018, the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) announced important initiatives including the signing of a $1.5 billion Framework Agreement with the Government of Burkina Faso. The RAF also served as a platform for the launch of the West African SME Support Program to improve access to finance. These encouraging results sustain our determination to continue.
Apart from the annual event, what else does the RAF do? Do you organize other activities?
We are not at rest at the close of an edition of the forum. Believe me, organizing a forum of this magnitude is a long-term job that takes place all year round. The preparation of the next RAF starts the day after the end of the event. We are proud and lucky to have a loyal team, present since the beginning of the adventure in 2014 and which is now seasoned.
After 8 years of existence, what are the innovations to bring to the RAF and what are your projects?
A human enterprise can always be improved. The RAF is a young event, which became institutionalized in the wake of its creation and which has generated a certain amount of enthusiasm on the continent and in Europe. With the first 7 editions and those to come, the RAF would like to continue to assert its leadership on the major issues underlying the development and emergence of the continent. We are convinced that this is the way to develop North-South and South-South win-win partnerships that Africa needs for its economic and social development. The challenge for us remains and will always remain the need to break the many cognitive biases that characterize the way African countries are viewed and to build and/or strengthen the confidence of partners, donors and investors for an inclusive sustainable development.