Focus on Africa – the continent of the future
Dortmund. With the aim of raising the profile of German business activities on the African continent and stepping them up, the Wilo Group welcomed around one hundred high-ranking guests from business, politics and society to the Wilo Business Conference “Building Bridges – Africa” on 16 May in cooperation with the German-African Business Association. Under the auspices of the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Svenja Schulze, the multinational technology group provided guests with the opportunity to exchange experiences and network as part of lectures, panel discussions and project insights.
At the opening of the conference, the host Oliver Hermes, President & CEO of the Wilo Group, emphasised: “Europe’s economic policy should strive for a new level of maturity with regard to Africa that not only involves development aid, but rather lays down the parameters for massive investment from Europe in African markets. Millions of new jobs could thus be created in Africa every year and also help to slow down migration flows.”
Politically, Africa has been on the German government’s agenda for a long time. “Travel diplomacy and charm offensives from politicians are all well and good. However, in geo-economic terms, new trade agreements and strategic alliances should be forged with African countries. Europe must not miss the boat here,” said the host. “The African market will grow in economic importance regardless. German companies that want to remain competitive would do well to establish a local presence today rather than tomorrow,” stated Oliver Hermes.
Africa: Enormous diversity – maximum contrasts
Africa’s 54 states are extremely culturally diverse and provide the ultimate in contrasts: On the one hand, they are particularly affected by the many crises of the globalised world in the 21st century – be it droughts or floods as a result of global warming, food crises triggered by disruptions in world trade or limited access to healthcare services in the face of global pandemics.
On the other hand, the continent with its enormous wealth of resources and its growing, young population is not only able to help overcome global challenges, but to lead the way as an example of sustainable transformation: “Africa can become the first region in the world to combine economic prosperity with environmental sustainability and social justice. It must therefore now be a matter of working together to shape global change processes. After all, only together with Africa we will solve the great challenges of our time,” emphasised Svenja Schulze, the Federal Minster in her welcome address. She highlighted the importance of German-African partnerships: “German companies can be at the forefront of shaping this global change and enter partnerships with investments and know-how that are worthwhile for everyone.” Accordingly, the ministry welcomed and supported Wilo’s invitation to the “Building Bridges – Africa” business conference.
“Moreover, it is particularly important that Africa is not seen as a new fossil fuel “filling station” for Europe. Africa’s growth must be sustainable and the issue of climate action must not be an afterthought,” added Oliver Hermes.
In addition to the Federal Minister’s speech, the participants listened to contributions from Prof. Heinz-Walter Große, Chairperson of the Sub-Saharan Africa Initiative of German Business (SAFRI), and panel discussions with the German-African Business Association and the German-African social enterprise Africa GreenTec.
In addition, it was announced during the event that the “International German Sustainability Prize” would be jointly awarded for the first time by Wilo in 2023 to corporate partnerships between German companies and companies from the Global South.
Background: Wilo, one of the few German companies in Africa
Even now, only around 3% of German companies are active in Africa. One of them is the Wilo Group: In the meantime, the company can look back on around 30 years of business and experience in Africa, in which highly efficient pumps and pump systems have been used to facilitate the sustainable expansion of critical infrastructures in Africa and to move the scarce resource of water, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In the process, Wilo has invested in regional value creation from the very beginning, has pursued sustainable capacity building and is now an established player on the African market, being commissioned with major projects such as the irrigation of the arid Toshka region in Egypt.
“At Wilo, we are proud to already have a wide range of experience in Africa and to be able to help shape the sustainable economic development of the continent,” Oliver Hermes closed the event.