Finland has a new strategy for Africa – what will happen next?
Finland’s new Africa strategy was adopted in March this year. It is the first Africa strategy to involve all branches of government and was preceded by a comprehensive set of hearings. The main aim of the strategy is to develop and diversify Finland’s relationship with countries in Africa. This requires sustained efforts both politically, economically and culturally.
When it comes to trade and business, the strategy sets the aim of doubling Finnish trade with the African continent by the end of this decade. The target may seem ambitious, but it can be reached through a number of actions. It can also be assumed that economic growth in African countries will resume after the covid 19 period. A key factor in all efforts will be the ability and readiness of Finnish actors, both private and public, to join forces, share information and invest in getting to know better the markets and opportunities in Africa. This will require some particular actions:
Firstly, Finnish companies need access to sources of financing and ecosystems, where smaller companies can benefit from the activities and experience of bigger companies. The European Union and its financial framework for the period 2021-27 provide substantial opportunities also for Finnish companies, for example when it comes to promoting digitalization and connectivity in Africa. Team Europe initiatives both at country and regional level are of particular interest. The Foreign Ministry together with the Finnish Embassies in Africa are following this work closely. The Foreign Ministry has also worked together with other EU Member States, most recently Germany and Spain, to learn about their experience of EU funded projects and about the opportunities for Finnish companies to join forces with companies in other EU Member States in order to create stronger consortia targeting the African market.
Secondly, the Foreign Ministry and its embassies have intensified their cooperation with Business Finland to provide information and advice, in particular concerning the most relevant African markets from a Finnish Business perspective; Egypt and Morocco in the north, Kenya in the east, Nigeria in the west and South Africa in the south. The opening of a new Finnish Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, will be a way of strengthening knowledge about market opportunities in French speaking West Africa. In addition, there is now an expert on EU financed programmes based in Brussels, who provides information and advice both to Helsinki based institutions and to Finnish Embassies in Africa.
Thirdly, the Foreign Ministry and the Embassies will continue to reach out to the private sector in a more systematic way in order to ensure an effective and timely exchange of information about market opportunities on the African continent. The Africa networks of the Confederation of Finnish Industries and the Finland Chamber of Commerce play a key role in this respect. Finnfund and Finnvera are important interlocutors when it comes to financing arrangements and risk management.
Fourthly, the Africa strategy seeks to stimulate dialogue and cooperation between authorities, expert organisations and the private sector to explore opportunities and synergies related to their work in African countries, for instance in matters related to promoting green and digital transition in Africa.
In order to succeed in achieving the goals of the Africa strategy, we need to be both ambitious and realistic. Market opportunities in Africa do exist, but just like anywhere else they require good knowledge of the local environment, information about financing opportunities and a readiness to invest time and energy in developing business relations. The Team Finland network stands ready to help with this.
Deputy Director General
Department for Africa and the Middle East
Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland
Tel. +358 295 351 234 Mob. +358 40 132 1416
claus.lindroos ( a )formin.fi