The forum was convened for the purpose of finding creative solutions to enhancing cooperation between the Mekong Region of Vietnam and a large number of participating African nations.
Deputy Director Hoang Duc Nhuan of the South-West Asia and Africa Department pointed out that overcoming the language barrier was the number one barrier to stimulating commercial trade and investment.
Nhuan said trade with the eight-member West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and the six-member Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) has seen significant improvement over the past few years.
“Total commercial trade between Vietnam and the African countries increased more than 4.7 fold in the eight years from 2007 to 2014, having gone from US$353 million to US$1.19 billion,” said Nhuan.
However, if trade is to reach its fullest potential there has to be a common language to help overcome other barriers and develop a better understanding of trading partners’ local markets.
“Improved communication will also help dispatch cultural barriers for trading nations,” Nhuan said, and it will allow them to develop local distributorships, establish local language websites among other benefits.
Deputy Chairwoman Thai Kieu Phuong of the Vietnam-Africa-Middle East Business Forum said Vietnam has huge potential for agriculture trade with African nations and can satisfy their demand for products such as rice, cashews and vegetables.
Director Vo Tan Thanh of the HCM City branch of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry HCM City agreed. Additionally, he said Vietnam could manufacture low cost, high quality efficient agricultural machinery and equipment for African nations.
Hoang Duc Nhuan of the Ministry of Industry and Trade said rice is Vietnam’s major export to African countries, which has accounted for 50-70% of total exports over recent years followed by garments and processed foods.
Nhuan suggested that along with agricultural machinery— seafood and electric cables are promising exports product to these markets.
Another panellist noted one of the major obstacles in trading with African countries lies in getting paid as it is quite complicated to transfer money in and out of African countries because their banking systems are not modernized
He recommended exporters consider a barter method to resolve the payment issue. It means that they ship products to Africa and in exchange for African goods or consider three party exchanges with a third partner in Europe or Hong Kong.
Representatives from roughly 100 Mekong Region businesses primarily engaged in agriculture and construction along with a large gathering of reps from governmental and non-governmental organizations attended the forum.
It was organized by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with the International Trade Centre.