Wofai Samuel hosts Belarus – Africa forum in Minsk

Wofai Samuel

The two-day Belarus-Africa Forum with the theme: New Frontiers, organized by the Development Bank of Belarus and African Export-Import Bank, in collaboration with the Belarus Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the support of the Belarus Ministry of Agriculture, has held in Belarus – Minsk.

The forum had Prime Ministers, Ministers, Financiers from the Public and Private sectors as well as key decision makers from the highest levels of government across Africa and Eastern Europe.

Nigeria’s Wofai Samuel, engaged ministers and prime ministers in an objective but very detailed and frank conversation which was segmented in two phases and lasted over two hours.

The first Ministerial discussion was focused on: The Roles of public sector, in promoting economic and trade relationships, in support of African and Belarusian businesses.

The Panelists’ were:  Hon. Marcos Alexandre Nhunga –  Minister of Agriculture, Angola.  Hon. Mou Ambrose Thiik – Deputy Minister of Finance and Planning, South Sudan.   His Excellency, Mr. Igor Brylo, Vice Minister of Agriculture and Food, Republic of Belarus.  His Excellency, Mr. Dmitry Korchik, Vice Minister of Industry, Belarus. Antonio Sozinho and Aleksei Bogdanov.

Wofai Samuel asked His Excellency, Mr. Dmitry Korchik, Vice Minister of Industry, Belarus about Africa, an alleged risk encapsulated industry, by this, ”I mean, global financial institutions have often argued that risks associated with intra African trade were high thus justifying the reason for their reluctance to finance intra African trade. Do you agree with that assessment or their risk appetite for intra African trade is simply too low?”, he asked.

Wofai Samuel, further questioned Hon. Mou Ambrose Thiik, Deputy Minister, Ministry of finance and economy South Sudan about the fact that countries are benchmarked largely with ease of doing business.

“How do we motivate public private partners to contribute to development of much needed infrastructure for promotion of growth and trade between Belarus and Africa, not leaving everything to government”, he asked.

The second ministerial panel, was focused on Africa and Eastern Europe: Belarus as a gate way to leverage economic and trade cooperation between the two regions was the theme for the second ministerial panel, which was also anchored by Wofai Samuel.

Her Excellency- Sibanda Thusi Nomasonto – Ambassador of South Africa in the Russian Federation.  Hon. Sani Yaya, Minister of Finance and Economy – Togo.  His Excellency, Mr. Valentin Rybakov Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Belarus. Seregie Kalechits, Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of Belarus constituted this panel.

Wofai Samuel, the moderator, asked about the growth and development opportunities offered by the Eurasia union Africa partnership, asking them to highlight steps that should be taken to seize advantage of these opportunities cos the market is dynamic.

Valentin Rybakov, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said that the country believed that the time had come to enhance relations with Africa and identified the areas of common interest to include agriculture, land development, industrialization and public development.

He said that with the increased Belarusian focus on Africa, the country’s trade with the continent had grown from almost no value a few years ago to current annual figures running into millions of dollars.

Belarus was not just interested in trading with Africa by simply buying and selling but wanted to collaborate with the continent through launching and cooperating in businesses promoting and creating jobs across the continent. It also wanted to participate in the continent’s industrialization.

Wofai said EAEU is forging strong alliance with both the EU and China / what are some of the key lessons we can learn from these partnership as we seek to enhance regional trade between the two trading blocks to enable us achieve the most positive results.

The South African Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Sibanda Thusi Nomasonto responded by saying as much as Africa should maintain its standards, Africa needs to be more flexible with its bilateral relationships with other countries out of Africa. The ease of doing business should be worked upon. Africans’ should start by working productively together before seeking collaborations with other countries, it has to begin with us she added. Belarus and Eastern Europe alone cannot achieve the desired results for Africa if we do not work in unity.

It is my wish that the next Belarus – Africa Forum be held in Africa, this will enable the people of Eatern Europe and Belarus, explore our continent and see realistically the opportunities we have to share with the world.

Mr Igor Brylo, Vice Minister of Agriculture and Food, Belarus mentioned that the relationship should be a symbiotic and mutually befitting one. Belarus has so much to offer Africa, Africa should also look inwards on what she can offer Belarus.

His Excellency, Mr. Dmitry Korchik, Vice Minister of Industry of the Republic of Belarus said Africa has benefitted from various trade agreements including the economic partnership agreement, African growth and opportunity act among others signed by Africa with its partners. Africa should learn from these partnership as we seek to enhance regional trade between the two trading blocks.

In the next few years our success story and positive growth in terms of finance, investment and fostering a mutually productive relationship between both regions should be such that other regions can emulate, Wofai Samuel concluded.

Wofai Samuel, took time out to visit Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and Belarus after the entire event.

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