Driving Africa's private sector through public and private partnerships is vital in encouraging sustainable growh across the continent. In the run-up to the forthcoming AgriBusiness Forum 2015 organised by EMRC and the Government of the DR Congo to be held from 22-25 March 2015 in Kinshasa DR Congo, we put a few questions to EMRC’s vice president and managing director Idit Miller
What role do you (Idit Miller) play at EMRC?
I am both the vice president and the managing director. My main activity is to lead the EMRC team. This entails working closely with the project managers to establish strong forums by building interesting programmes to attract a variety of partners/participants to our forums. I am also active in mobilising new collaborators from across the world. I travel frequently across Africa and beyond to understand the latest trends in regards to agriculture/finance/SMEs and Private-Public Partnerships. I have also throughout the 20 years at the helm of EMRC established a strong network of business people ‘on the ground’ that have played a critical role in bringing the African private sector to the next level, which in my view are the most important actors to ensure a strong and growing private sector in Africa. I also maintain ongoing relations with our individual contacts within the public sector sphere amongst leading international organisations, governments and research institutes and so forth.
As a non-profit organisation our main vision is to promote Africa’s sustainable development through the growing of business partnerships to support and develop the continent’s private sector. To achieve this, EMRC initiates and organises business events, forums, training programmes, economic and trade missions. This includes: AgriBusiness Forum: It attracts 450 decision makers annually, from the private and public sectors. First launched in Europe, it moved to Africa in 2009, with each edition revolving around a core theme tackling the challenges and opportunities in Africa’s agro-food sector. Hosted by the local government, partners include FAO, Rabobank, UNDP and others. It has now become the largest annual Pan-African forum to discuss the latest issues impacting Africa’s agri-food sector. The AgriBusiness Forum 2015 will take place on 22-25 March 2015 in Kinshasa, hosted by DR Congo's government.
Africa Finance & Investment Forum (AFIF): An annual business event organised aims at strengthening Africa’s private sector, encouraging entrepreneurship and attracting investment. Initiated more than a dozen years ago in Brussels, AFIF has travelled around Europe: Cologne, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Geneva, Lisbon and Paris. In view of the growing role that Africa can and should play within the world economy, we wish to bring this finance & investment event to Africa’s financial hub, South Africa.
Trade and economic missions: Addressed to small groups of African private and public sector decision makers, these are country visits that consist of site visits, exchange of knowledge and meetings with local entrepreneurs, aimed at promoting inter-regional relations.
Tailor-made business events & training sessions: Organised following EMRC members’ requests and prepared with specialised experts, these are held in Europe and around Africa
How have your one-on-one business meetings at forums you have organised benefited companies?
I would say that these one-on-one business meetings epitomise what EMRC strives to achieve: real results focusing on business partnerships. We have seen these B2B sessions evolve through the years as we work closely with an international company which is at hand to filter every participant’s demands/requests so they actually sit down with the correct/perfect potential business partner. We organise hundreds of such meetings per forum reserving a special sessions each day just for this.
We have had many people attending these meetings who have then gone on to establish real ventures with the people they met. We have clearly noticed that our participants keep coming back year after year because their B2B sessions have worked so effectively. The fact that participants can sit down with other participants and partners and speakers makes these forums rather unique and ‘alive’. Forum sponsors and partners and panel speakers are just as interested in discussing business with participants as participants are with them. This is the entire essence of why EMRC has created these pan-African platforms.
As an example of the B2B success, please consider this feedback that we received from a participant who attended AgriBusiness Forum in Johannesburg: “As a result of the opportunities to meet potential partners and customers at the EMRC conference in Johannesburg GrainPro was able to arrange follow up meetings with two ministers of agriculture and several potential partner organization. For us this was clearly the most valuable conference in Africa this year and we look forward to next year’s. We would love to have an opportunity at next year’s meeting to report on the progress in the use of hermetic storage to protect grains and crops that is taking place in Africa,” said Philippe Villers, President GrainPro Inc.
Which countries in Africa do you operate in? Is your focus on working within the private sector?
We operate throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Our team in Brussels is split up so that each team focuses on the Francophone/Lusophone and Anglophone African speaking countries respectively.
We have a very good representation of most African countries which makes our forums so special. For example, just now we have people registered for the upcoming AgriBusiness Forum 2015 in Kinshasa DR Congo coming from more than twenty counties in Africa. It really is an entire representation of the continent.
This forum is pan-African, an essential component to everything we do. Yes, it is taking place in DR Congo and the government will definitely showcase the current trends and opportunities in the country but there is a wider context to the forum. The regional aspect of the agricultural sector and its benefits as well as business potential is very much on the agenda. That is why the partners and speakers enrolled are representatives of the entire value chain, which implies a regional dynamic. Our aim is to provide a platform for the private sector to promote and develop itself. We, however, also make sure that governments, public sector organisations and international organisations are also part of our forums as dialogue and collaboration are essential if anything is to grow and develop in a sustainable manner.
What current events/ projects are you working on for the African market?
As mentioned above we are in the run up to our annual AgriBusiness Forum 2015, which will be held in Kinshasa, DR Congo and hosted by the government of Congo and in partnership with a great many local, regional and international players. At the same time we are preparing an Agricultural-Economic Mission to Israel in April, a few training programmes for entrepreneurs and the Africa Finance & Investment Forum that will take place in Cape Town, South Africa in November 2015.