Vietnam joins French-speaking Africa in push for broader economic cooperation

VOV.VN - Plenty of investment opportunities exist for Vietnamese firms in the 32 French-speaking nations in Africa, an area that boasts a large market and a total population of over 570 million people that is anticipated to develop into one of the world’s new economic development hubs in the time ahead.

Hoang Duc Nhuan, Vietnamese trade counselor in Algeria, Gambia, Mali, Niger, and Senegal, made the remarks during a recent online seminar aimed at discussing potential prospects for expanding economic and trade co-operation between the country and French-speaking territories in Africa.

Amid the global economic landscape and trade being seriously affected by the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, the seminar enjoyed the participation of hundreds of agencies, businesses, and associations from both the nation and African states who are members of the International Orgnisation of the Francophonie (OIF).

According to data compiled by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, last year witnessed Vietnamese import and export turnover to the markets of 32 OIF members reach US$1.7 billion, a rise of 6.3%, with imports hitting US$2.8 billion, up 12% from the same period in 2018.

Meanwhile, statistics released by the General Department of Vietnam Customs indicate that during the 2015 to 2019 period, total two-way trade turnover between the country and OIF members increased from US$2.7 billion in 2015 to a figure of US$4.5 billion in 2019, representing 88% of overall trade turnover between Vietnam and Africa, with an average annual growth rate of 13.6%.

The value of import and export between the nation and the bloc makes up approximately 1.1% of its foreign trade globally. Most notably, Vietnamese trade exchanges with these countries focuses primarily on the 10 major partners, including the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Egypt, the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Morocco, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Togo, Mozambique, and Benin.

During the course of the event, African organisation and business representatives expressed their great appreciation for the country’s role and position in Southeast Asia, in addition to affirming their desire to further boost bilateral economic, trade, and investment ties with the nation. Indeed, the African side hailed the efforts of the Vietnamese Government to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in an effective manner as well as implementing solutions to post-pandemic economic recovery efforts.

As a means of rapidly recovering bilateral trade activities moving past the impact of COVID-19 and promoting stronger investment co-operation alongside two-way market development, many enterprises at the seminar showed a keen interest in a variety of aspects of future collaboration. This includes market access methods, product needs, payment methods, and risk prevention experience in the business co-operation process between firms from the two sides.                
Chekou Oussouman, chief representative of OIF's Asia-Pacific Regional Office in Hanoi, described the nation as a gateway for African businesses to gain entry into the Southeast Asian market. Similarly, African countries also represent attractive destinations for Asian businesses due to the Vietnamese influence.

Moving forward, both Africa and Asia have a wealth of opportunities whilst also having numerous similarities, such as young populations, diverse natural resources, rich cultures, and complementary economies. In particular, as the country is currently serving as ASEAN Chair 2020 at a time when the Francophone community is a partner for the bloc’s development, both sides want to reach the huge potential that exists for stronger economic and trade co-operation.

Upon addressing the seminar, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Cao Quoc Hung affirmed the nation’s recognition of the great importance of the co-operation relationship with the Francophone Community in Africa, pledging to progress with its contributions to the joint efforts for a stronger and increasingly united group of OIF members.

Many international organisations anticipate that Africa will soon become one of the world's new centres for economic development, Deputy Minister Hung noted.

Africa enjoys many opportunities for greater trade and investment co-operation with Vietnamese enterprises, with the nation being viewed as an important partner in the Asia-Pacific region for many African states due to its dynamically-developing economy that is connected to vast markets through numerous free trade agreements,.

Due to these factors, the country is ready to act as a bridge between the OIF bloc and the Asia-Pacific region through the implementation of the Francophone Economic Development Strategy, the Deputy Minister added.

According to Vietnamese trade counselor Nhuan, Africa in general and the French-speaking countries in this region in particular still have plenty of room for Vietnamese goods. Alongside normal trade, the continent is currently emerging as a potentially lucrative global investment destination.

This can be seen as many Vietnamese state-owned corporations and private enterprises have yielded positive results in their investment on the continent, with this being seen in the fields of oil and gas exploitation, telecommunications, hydropower, and wood processing, the trade official stated.