Guinea Bissau is Rising, by Jibrin Baba Ndace
Africa hosts 25% of the natural global biodiversity, and 30% of the world’s mineral resources, it has a strong resource potential. Guinea-Bissau is a country with a privilege geographical location and the highest proportion of natural wealth per capita in West Africa, including land, fisheries, and forest.
Beyond West Africa Guinea Bissau enjoys trade agreements and preferential trade status with several large economies including the EU, China and the US. The country is also a signatory to the Cotonou agreement granting reciprocal duty free access to EU markets for African, Caribbean and pacific (ACP) country exports. Its economy is fueled by natural resources particularly agriculture and fisheries for both subsistence and income. Based on data collected for the elaboration of the country’s first national voluntary review, the agricultural sector employs more than 90% of the national workforce and contributes 62% of GDP. Cashew nuts and rice are the two major corps dominating the agricultural sub-sector. Although the country is one of the world’s largest producers of cashew, only 10% of cashew nut production is proceeded locally due to low investment in proceeding and transformation activities, untapped West African frontier market with unlimited potential for innovative and sustainable growth, indicating opportunities for added value in Guinea-Bissau through vertical supply chain consolidation.
It is on this note that the Government of Guinea Bissau and the embassies of Cape Verde, Nigeria and South Africa together with the United Nations development programme (UNDP) jointly organized and hosted the inaugural edition of Bissau Rising impact investment and trade forum, with the theme “Bringing together people and businesses from Africa and beyond”, to draw on an emergent and vibrant business community for policy makers and influencers from Africa and beyond. The platform aims to establish a foundation for business development and sustainable growth, focusing on creating an enabling environment where all entrepreneurs, especially youth and women will flourish.
The forum kicked off on the 30th of November Ceiba hotel conference centre in its capital city Bissau. The forum was convened by experts in different fields to speak on how to develop each sector of Guinea Bissau from experiences they have through working privately or individually in their countries. The forum created new opportunities through cooperation and exchange of ideas that foster innovation and generate new value to achieve positive impact in the economy, environmental and social dimensions of development.
The 3 days conference was created towards generating these sectors; finance, banking and insurance, Digital economy and infrastructure, blue economy and tourism , creative industry and intellectual products, Logistics and transportation (Land, Air and Sea), Eco-solutions: Energy, waste, agriculture, water and sanitation and the overview of policy and economic reforms in ECOWAS.
The ceremony was opened by A Government representative, Mr. Tjark Egenhooff –Res Rep UNDP, His Excellency Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Ambassador Mphakama Mbete Ambassador of South Africa, His Excellency Camilo Graca the ambassador of Cape Verde the brains behind the creation of Bissau Rising.
After which Bruno Jauad, GB invest, invest Guinea Bissau, Luis Teixeira, business and Env reform coordinator, Cape Verde spoke on the overview of policy and economic reforms in ECOWAS.
Bruno Jauad, GB invest, invest guinea Bissau, Luis Mussa sambi-DG economy , Carlos Lopes AIGB, Munira Jauda Ribeiro Vice President FME/CPLP,GNB and Mr. Mama samba Embalo President of the CCAIS enlightened the audience on what it takes to do business in Guinea Bissau and current reform programs.
The first session discussed Digital economy, the current situation in Guinea Bissau which was headed by Aimonia Cabral from Bandim online and Ivan Rueter , African Union Communication, south Africa. The session broadly discussed Digital economy and Infrastructure, The rapid growth in access and users of digital communication channel that has created a rapidly expanding market for digital products services and solution. The opportunities for providing digital solution which exceeds large established firms and includes market entry points for niche downstream service providers as well as innovative digital solutions to local challenges offered by small scale businesses and startups catering to emerging local demands. The speakers shared best experiences, practices and perspective for innovation, Rui Levy discussed business angles concept and importance for the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The day ended with dinner hosted by the Ambassador of Nigeria, South Africa and Cape Verde.
On the 2nd day of the conference, African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) spoke on new opportunities for Guinea Bissau, World Bank Res Rep Ms Anne Lucie Lefebvre and IMF Res Rep Mr. Patrick Gitton spoke economic trends and private sector engagement before the finance, banking and insurance session commenced. The session was broken into two; national financial inclusion strategy and banking and investment round table. These section was handled by expert in finance like Bertrand Moulin UNDP/ min of finance consultant, Antonio monteiron Dir. Of digital coordination BAO, Bertrand moulin, UNDP, Jacunia da silva and Mr. Ebuka Emebinah from the impact investment foundation of Nigeria. Guinea Bissau’s emergent private sector is accelerating the need for development of the financial sector
They exclusively discussed how finance can be generated for private business owners and challenges faced by entrepreneurs in Guinea Bissau involving fund raising.
Following the finance and banking session was the Blue Economy and tourism where opportunities in Guinea Bissau by experts like Carlota Baranano ICESM, Mussa Sambi, DG Min. of economy, Rui Alberto Pinto Pereira, ANAPI,GNB,Domingos Jose ca,CCAIS-GB, Ica Barry- Bertrand moulin-UNDP/Min of Finance Consultant. The Guinea Bissau’s waters are considered one of the wealthiest biodiversity areas of West Africa, with Bundant halieutic resources and mangroves offering enormous potential for blue economy. This session was also divided into two where presentation of strategy and discussion of how to take advantage of the blue economy and Tourism across its 88 islands, bijagos island.
A discussion panel was further set up to discuss African influencers and rising stars from Guinea Bissau, Creative industry and intellectual entrepreneurs. When it comes music, painting, Handicrafts, fashion etc Guinea Bissau is a strong potential and the panelist Ne Vaz a writer GNB,Hamilton Jair Fernandes-DG of cultural Heritage Cape Verde, Stunki Vundla South Africa,Alpha Cante, Designer GNB,Flora Gomes, Film Producer GNB,and Paul Obazele-Creative Industry, Nigeria spoke on how they can manage their creative industries and contribute to the commercial success and economic growth of Guinea Bissau and play a central role in the diversification of economic opportunities that is essential to achieve structural transformation. A cultural night followed at the end of the day showcasing young beautiful talent like Dimma a promising artist and a fashion design with talented good looking models all from Guinea Bissau.
The blue economy session continued at the tour to one of the 88 island Bijagos Island in Guinea Bissau, The Bijagos Islands are the jewel in Guinea-Bissau’s crown, an archipelago of 88 islands that are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Their isolated location means they are home to some of West Africa’s least adulterated cultural traditions, unspoiled by colonial influence. The Bijagos Island gives a very different face to Bissau.
The event was wholesome indeed bringing people from different part of the world to share a common interest in developing a country which for a long time seemed to be in the shadow. The turn up gave great room for networking and interest in investing in this virgin country proving that there is hope in the country and with this potential showcased, Bissau is rising.
Ndace is a journalist with Blueprint newspaper