The headquarters of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Madrid was the setting for the Spain-Senegal Business Forum with the aim of identifying and promoting the investment options offered by the African country for Spanish investors.
Organised by the Spanish Confederation of Business Organisations (CEOE) and the Embassy of Senegal in Spain, the Forum served as an invitation to invest in the Senegalese country, which offers great advantages for foreign investors due to its political stability, legal security and development of infrastructures and services, together with its great value in the field of human resources.
Jaime Montalvo, International Director of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, acted as host and master of ceremonies to introduce the main topic to be discussed and the different personalities who participated. The message was clear, to highlight the great opportunity that the Republic of Senegal represents for foreign investment, especially Spanish.
Inmaculada Riera, Director General of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, spoke to highlight the strengthening of bilateral relations and the existing collaboration between the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, the Secretary of State for Trade and the ICEX agency in order to promote the internationalisation of companies, in the particular case of Senegal with the close collaboration of the Senegalese Embassy in Madrid.
Inmaculada Riera highlighted “the important role of Africa in the world and the solid presence of Spain in the continent” through the Africa Plan of the Spanish Government and the Horizon Africa initiative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Director General of the Chamber of Commerce stressed the relevance of Senegal as a very important trading partner for Spain, since bilateral trade has multiplied exponentially in the last decade. In fact, the Senegalese country is Spain’s sixth largest trading partner on the African continent and the second largest in the sub-Saharan African region.
Riera herself alluded to one of the most important sectors of the Senegalese economy: tourism. The West African country has recently seen major developments in the tourism sector, a key factor in national economic growth and diversification, with the improvement of infrastructures and initiatives for new hotel and shopping centre openings.
Senegal has a dynamic economy and is a benchmark for governance in sub-Saharan Africa. In the last decade, the government’s Emerging Senegal plan has served to correct structural deficiencies and modernise the economy, through improvements in the energy sector, infrastructure, tourism, education, etc. ……
The Director General sent a clear message to Spanish companies to invest within the framework of public-private collaboration, “in which we believe”.
One of Senegal’s strong points is tourism, and the SAPCO agency, Société d’Aménagement et de Promotion des Coasts et des Zones Touristiques du Sénégal, which is in charge of promoting investment in tourism and organising and urbanising areas for tourism exploitation, plays a very important role in this area. Souleymane Ndiaye, director general of SAPCO, presented investment opportunities in the field of tourism, which is the second most important economic sector in Senegal in terms of income and importance, second only to fishing. Ndiaye spoke of giving visibility to the opportunities offered by the nation, with an open invitation to anyone who wants to invest.
From SAPCO, representative Moustapha Mohammed spoke of “developing new tourist centres, re-evaluating tourist resorts, increasing tourism capacity in the country and attracting new visitors by creating new standards of quality, urban planning and environmental protection”. At the Forum it became clear that Senegal offers great opportunities for tourism investment, also in the construction sector with infrastructure projects geared towards this area, together with the development of shopping centres, transport networks and digital services.
At this point, the presentation of important integrated tourism areas to be developed in Senegal, such as the Saloum Delta, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its exceptional nature, came up. An ideal spot for ecotourism with the project to build ecotourism hotels and flats. An investment of 185 billion CFA francs (West Africa) is needed for this area.
Other integrated tourist zones were also highlighted, such as Mbodiene, which requires 665 billion CFA francs of investment, Pointe Sarene, which needs 271 billion, Kaffountine-Abene, with 255 billion CFA francs, and Azona de Saly in Ville Verte, intended to create a green zone as a tourist enclave that would mean the first spa town in West Africa, with several hotels, shopping centres, etc. …… Any company can submit projects, open to national and international companies. SAPCO is in charge of land development and requalification at the urban planning level, and interested companies would invest in the equipment to be installed in the areas. Of the investment money, the largest percentage would be borne by the private investment companies, and a smaller percentage would be borne by the state public sector.
The Ambassador of the Republic of Senegal in Spain, Mariame Sy, also took the opportunity to speak, highlighting the “fruitful collaboration that exists with the Spanish Chamber of Commerce”. Trade exchanges between the two countries began in the 70s of the last century and the Senegalese country currently ranks 64th in the list of Spain’s client countries, being the second customer of the Spanish market in sub-Saharan Africa, after South Africa.
Senegal exports fishing, agricultural and mineral products to Spain, and 100 Spanish companies are present in Senegalese territory, in key sectors such as agriculture, fishing, housing construction, engineering, mining, transport infrastructure and tourism.
Mariame Sy stressed the importance of “making the Spanish public aware of the potential and investment opportunities offered by Senegal”. The latest discoveries of gas and oil, especially gas, are of great importance, as they will improve the state’s resources and attract major economic players. All of this is favoured by the good legal and fiscal climate that offers advantages to investors.
For his part, Abdoulaye Balde, Director General of the Senegalese Investment Promotion Agency (APIX) said that Senegal and Spain are countries that have long maintained fruitful bilateral relations. “Spain is the closest European country to Senegal,” said Balde, who emphasised the importance of sectors such as aviation, education, tourism and mining.
Abdoulaye Balde highlighted the action focused on investment with a competitiveness development programme. “Those who come to invest will have an appropriate regulation with specific laws that give advantages to investors,” explained the director general, who also alluded to the country’s good judicial organisation in the commercial sphere.
Balde called for a greater boost in foreign direct investment, considering that Senegal is perceived by analysts as the country that will have the highest growth rate in the world. It is estimated to grow by 8-10% in the coming years. “In the next decade, Senegal will have growth rates of more than 10%, placing it among the ten fastest growing countries,” he explained.
Senegal is an important access point for other African markets because of its location and its membership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Abdoulaye Balde explained that in 2050 there will be 2,500 million inhabitants in the African continent with 54 countries in free trade regime, thanks to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and Senegal can be an important “gateway” to settle with guarantees in the African market.
APIX highlighted the importance of the Special Economic Zones that are being prepared in the Senegalese country, which have special conditions and enjoy a package of tax incentives and preferential energy rates for interested investors. Balde himself also invited to attend the Invest in Senegal Forum on 6, 7 and 8 July, with the participation of the Senegalese State and the private sector, in which 82 projects will be presented, some already in a start-up situation, very attractive for foreign investment, and also Spanish.
Abdoulaye Dieye, CEO of Blaise Diagne International Airport, also had the opportunity to present the air transport offer of Senegal, a country that is positioned as an important hub in Africa, with the aim of becoming the first sub-regional hub. Dieye highlighted the Emerging Senegal Plan, focused on transforming the economic and social system and improving social welfare.
There was also an opportunity for testimonies from Spanish companies with important implantation in relevant economic sectors in Senegal.
In this case, Pablo Marco Gardoqui, president of SEPIOL and Senegal Mines, Eduardo Mesegue, director of Institutional and Legal Affairs of GB Foods, Rafael Rodríguez, president of CAPTOURS and head of the Chamber of Commerce in Senegal, under the moderation of Jaime Montalvo, proceeded to explain the history and activity of their companies in the Senegalese country.
Pablo Marco Gardoqui spoke about the activity of his industrial mining company with an important trajectory in many countries and in Senegal, present there since 2002. Gardoqui pointed out that Senegal offers political stability, something “important for investment”, together with the legal security and social peace existing in the African country, “three important axes for investment”. The president of SEPIOL and Senegal Mines highlighted the “very beneficial” public-private partnership model in the case of his company, which had the cooperation of the Government of Senegal, which owns 15% of the company in the Senegalese country.
For his part, Eduardo Mesegue pointed out that the multinational GB Foods is present in 50 countries in the strategic agri-food sector. He indicated that his company is one of the pioneers in Africa, having been present on the African continent for 51 years. Eduardo Mesegue referred to an initial investment model based on exports, which then focused on having licences there in order to start manufacturing directly in Senegal, a country that “offers great legal security”.
Meanwhile, Rafael Rodríguez, president of CAPTOURS, a company specialising in personnel, school and tourist transport, pointed out that they have been present in the Senegalese country for more than 30 years. “These 30 years of experience in Senegal allow us to see the development and great potential that Senegal has as a tourist destination”, said Rodriguez, who highlighted the geographical proximity of Senegal to European issuing markets and its great offer of sun and beach, together with the existing cultural and ethnic diversity, which is not sufficiently known.
Rafael Rodríguez, also in his capacity as president of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Senegal, indicated that it is necessary to deepen the knowledge of the Senegalese market and this is what the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Senegal is looking for, a country that is welcoming, with a great capacity of human resources.
Ambassador Mariame Sy also wanted to stress that it is important for Spanish companies to invest in Senegal because there is “great stability” as it is one of the largest and oldest democracies in Africa, with strong institutions that defend rights and guarantee Spanish investments.
Finally, Alicia Varela, Director General for International Trade and Investment of the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, took her turn to say that Senegal “offers great political stability, legal security and natural wealth”, which is very interesting for investment. Alicia Varela also positively highlighted the development policies implemented by the President of the Government, Macky Sall, included in the ambitious Emerging Senegal programme. She also stressed that “Spanish companies can be Senegal’s best partner”, especially in the tourism sector, since Spain is an important international tourist destination with 49 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and receives 70 million tourists every year, a great asset and a great challenge also in terms of receiving this number of people, something “that we hope Senegal will soon have to face”.