Why is a pan-African market so crucial to the future of the African continent? At the past Forum de Saint Louis, held in Berlin on 20-21 September 2019, Your Public Value met with Mouna Kadiri, head of the Africa Development Club. We discussed the values of this Club and its ongoing efforts to connect African business leaders and civil society actors. Your Public Value continues to interview experts on their views of what public value is. Our conversation with Mouna Kadiri is inspiring and useful to understand how business helps shape a pan-African market, and beyond, our shared universal identity:
Mouna Kadiri: “The story starts in 2010 with the willingness of the Attijariwafa bank to connect all economic communities working with the banks’ branches in eight African countries. The initial objective was to shape a network to help people work together, create investment together, and make business together. The private sector responded very quickly and very positively to our quest.
Your Public Value: Any value-driven business is firstly based on needs…
“There seemed to be a widespread need to access a pan-African market. Business people needed reliable information in African countries other than their own. They also wanted to be able to travel and discover new markets, and to meet business and political leaders in each country. This is how the International African Development Club started. We now manage over 10,000 companies in 40 countries on the African continent, as well as in China and France. These companies have already organised over 2,000 business-to-business meetings. These are clear indicators of companies’ appetite to work together.
– What other need did you address?
“Any lack of knowledge is a lack of opportunity. In ten years only, we saw impressive new buildings, factories, and distribution networks developing between many countries on the African continent that were not used to working together. Our purpose today is to work with any private or public company interested in developing the African continent. We do not care whether companies are African or not: they can be from any country as long as they are interested in developing the African continent and shaping a pan-African market.
“Beyond business we soon realised that we were shaping a new standard of working together. We started from zero. The lack of knowledge was so deep that we needed to build bridges. Nothing more. Half a century only after independences, we have started to move and build bridges between our countries. We really need to be protective and respectful of this new move, and consider the time that it can take to get to know each other. Stereotypes and clichés still exist. Many companies still ask us to travel with them to meet potential partners. Many are still afraid of taking a bold move and discover new partners in new African countries.
Investment is a very concrete act of creating value. We created the Africa Development Club to have a sustainable pool of services to accompany companies wanting to develop their business on the African continent. We create and maintain a unique ecosystem driven by trust. Services are related to obtaining reliable up-to-date macro-economic information, notably on the main industrial sectors and national development banks, or to gaining access in real time to call for tenders in over 50 countries. We also created branches of the African Development Club, so that members can have access to experts and be supported in their investments beyond our virtual online network.
– It sounds that you are shaping a new community, as well as a pan-African market. What are its main values?
“Beyond business the main value is knowledge, i.e. getting to know each other. It’s about openness, intercultural meetings, a brotherhood act.
“To invest is an act of confidence. You cannot invest in any company if you don’t trust its leadership. To invest in any country means having trust in the future of this country, creating jobs, and eventually shaping a new environment. We are aiming at shaping a community that does not yet exist.
“So many countries still know so little about other countries each other on the African continent. You could say that Africa is still a concept. But through initiatives of our type, we develop awareness of our talents and strengths. We co-create a new community within and beyond our continent. We’re starting to talk to each other. We’re starting to create new standards for our consumer goods. We’re starting to think independently.
– You’re also shaping a new concept of mobility…
“Absolutely! Despite all obstacles, we are shaping a new concept of “positive mobility” as we have the will to connect people together and to work together. We invest in advocacy to facilitate administrative matters (the visa problem is still a very serious issue) and to develop new routes inside the African continent. We started in 16 countries and have then forged partnerships in other countries. We are spreading and growing very fast because the market is in need of such help.
– It’s a whole new market…
“More specifically, what we do redefines the consciousness of who we are [on the African continent]. We explain in our words who we think we are and have always been. In a previous African Development Forum, we initiated the concept of traveling to the “Weast”.
The Weast is a merger of the West and the East, a new direction.
“We wanted to say that all together we are creating a new direction. We organised an exhibition where we invited over 30 African artists to express themselves on this new direction that Africans are creating. We thought it was important to focus on what happens when East Africa meets West Africa – we wanted to challenge the traditional vision of the North and the South. And we wanted to break all walls.
“We then focused on what constitutes the East and the West. China was a major partner in this forum because of the Road and Belt Initiative. Nowadays East and West are no longer geographical concepts. They are related to culture and to what we co-create together.
– What is the Weast direction?
“The Weast is the direction where we are all united and in peace. In the Weast we dream together of a shared future. We want to raise awareness among African young people so that they can speak in one voice and together build a bright future in and for Africa.
“The Weast is about building trust in our own countries. It has become crucial to re-build trust in ourselves to become strong enough and become warriors to build our future in our own country. We want to tell young people that they are not alone and that they belong to a family.
– One can also make profit and thrive in this new pan-African market…
“It’s all about creating value. This includes creating jobs and businesses, paying taxes to help the country develop and communities thrive. This includes implementing successful standards. And yes, profit is part of it if and when it helps develop the African continent.
– Your network is multi-stakeholder, not only a network for investors
“Yes, multi-stakeholder dialogue is essential. All are needed. Investors shape the economy of the African continent. NGOs and citizens monitor human rights and proper governance. Politicians are needed to change the rules and implement the rule-of-law.
We insist on creating an economic community because investments bring jobs. Jobs make families happy. Happy families shape a brighter future.”