In spite of being small in size compared to other African countries, Seychelles an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean is aiming to become the hub for trade between African countries. The island nation wants to emulate countries like Singapore which is today the centre in Asia for trading in commodities globally. And after taking steps to promote the blue economy concept on the international scene, Seychelles is now looking at bringing African nations together through trade.
Speaking to the press at a meeting dubbed the ‘African Prosperity conference’ that is being hosted by the island nation recently, the Chairman of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry, (SCCI) Marco Francis called for greater partnership between African nations.
“I have travelled to many parts of Africa. Africa has some very good structures to do business. African businessmen have the same vision as we do, they want to do business and they want to expand. Let’s partner together.”
As part of efforts to boost regional trade, leaders from 26 African countries joined together in June this year to sign an ambitious declaration in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt to establish a wide-reaching free-trade zone across almost the entire eastern half of the African continent. The Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (TFTA), which incorporates member countries from the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), will stretch from the southernmost tip of the continent to the northernmost country of Egypt. Seychelles was also among the countries that signed the agreement which is aiming to ease trade between African nations.
In 2014, the Seychelles economy is estimated to have grown by 3.8%, down from 6.6% in 2013. Tourism, the main driver of growth, was adversely affected by weak demand in countries of origin, notably Europe. Manufacturing production also slowed, and plant modernisation was undertaken in the main beverage sector. On the demand side, private consumption remained strong, partly driven by an increase in consumer credit. Growth is projected to remain moderate at between 3.5-4% in 2015 and 2016. Financial services and information and communications technology (ICT) are expected to continue to grow and provide opportunities for economic diversification. Inflation accordingly remained contained and within the target of less than 4% per annum. The government approved a medium-term national development strategy (NDS, 2015-2019) in November which has four key areas: governance, economic development, social development and the environment.
Although Seychelles regional imports to COMESA, SADC and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) totalled a substantial 2.8 billion Seychelles rupees ($214 million) in 2012, this was offset by weak reciprocal exports of only SCR50.2 million ($3.8 million) with Seychelles’ regional neighbours in 2012, indicating that much more can still be done to promote the exportation of Seychelles’ goods to other African countries.
The Africa Prosperity Conference was organized under the umbrella of Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI) which is a network of 34 national chambers of commerce of Africa established in 2009. Participants of the conference also include organisations such as the PTA Bank, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), and regional organisations such as the African Union Commission. The conference has focussed mainly on exploring and growing potential exports from African countries while ensuring that there is access to essential information on the Continental Free Trade Area.
Seychelles, officially the Republic of Seychelles is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The 115-island country, whose capital is Victoria, lies 1,500 km (932 mi) east of mainland East Africa. Other nearby island countries and territories include Comoros, Mayotte, Madagascar, Réunion and Mauritius to the south. It is the smallest population of any independent African state, however it does have a larger population than the UK overseas territory Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.