Speech: Norway’s foreign minister opens NABA summit

Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide speaks at the Nordic-African Business Summit in Oslo on October 8

The Nordic-African Business Association Summit has become important annual event. I would like to thank Managing Director Eivind Fjeldstad and Naba for arranging this conference for the ninth consecutive time.

The Norwegian Government works systematically to ensure that our businesses have an array of good opportunities – in Norway and abroad.

Much of our trade is naturally with the rest of Europe, but trade with other regions of the world is growing.

Especially with Africa. Last year, Norwegian trade with African countries increased with no less than 50 %.

To continue this growth, Norwegian businesses depend on stability and predictability to make long-term investments. That entails anti-corruption work, adherence to human rights, and an independent judiciary.

We need partnerships with not only businesses in Africa, but also with political leaders on the continent. We need cooperation across countries and continents, and across the private and public sector.

And we need meeting places such as Naba.

Taking a broader view on global trade, there are several worrying trends.  

New trade barriers are set up, there is a lack of trust in key bilateral trade relations, and we experience an increased distrust in the WTO and multilateral frameworks.

Escalating trade tensions and a slowing global economy have led WTO to downgrade their forecasts for trade and economic growth.

This is happening at a time when we need to increase international cooperation and trade.

No single nation can alone realise the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

And no single nation or company can achieve the necessary global climate change objectives alone.

We need to solve our global challenges together.

Norway is committed to upholding fair and equitable rules within the framework of an open global economy.

We will continue this effort, together with all nations that seek rules based multilateral trade and cooperation.

We will also be a driver for reforms that make international organizations more effective and representative.

If we are to succeed in our transition to a greener and bluer economy, we cannot afford to waste our resources on unnecessary subsidies, trade barriers or trade conflicts.  

That is why I would like to congratulate all African politicians and business representatives here today on reaching the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

You are showing global leadership in a challenging time by establishing what will become the world’s largest free trade agreement since the establishment of WTO.

We are inspired by your collaborative efforts to embrace economic integration, at a time when we see a rise in protectionism.

Our hope is that the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, as well as initiatives within the different Regional Economic Communities, will contribute to streamlined trade rules, increased predictability, consistent regulation and foster good governance.

Deeper African economic integration will provide opportunities for inclusive economic growth, private sector development and job creation.

It will also provide new opportunities for Norwegian and Nordic businesses.

With the projected rise in the working-age population on the African continent, there is a need to create 20 million new jobs every year.

The private sector, both local and international, must lead the way.  

The Norwegian Government aims to do our part by putting in place regulatory frameworks that are conducive to private sector development.

We also aim to do our part in our development assistance.

For example, we have increased the budget allocations to private sector development. By the end of 2018, as many as 304 000 people were employed through companies in the portfolio of the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries, Norfund.

But the ripple effect is perhaps even more important. By investing in financial infrastructure, renewable energy production and agribusiness, Norfund’s investments enable job creation through local companies.

We are also confident that the private sector present at this summit will strive to deliver on the standards set forward by the UN guiding principles on business and human rights as well as the OECD Guidelines for Multilateral Enterprises in their investments abroad.

The private sector has a key role in our efforts to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals – like goal one, eradicating poverty, and goal eight, creating decent work and economic growth.

The main focus of this year’s summit is sharing of experiences.

In a room filled with so much knowledge and experience from economic activity on the African continent, I hope you all take advantage of this opportunity to learn from each other.

I hope this conference will show the many areas where Norwegian and Nordic companies have much to offer African markets.

One such area is the blue economy.

With their experience and competence, Norwegian companies are well placed to make important contributions to the development of the blue economy in African countries.

It is estimated that the ocean economy could more than double its contribution to global economy by 2030. But in order to achieve this, we must manage the oceans wisely, and ensure their good health. To have rich oceans, we must have clean oceans. 

Norway has a strong commitment in contributing to clean and sustainable oceans.

In two weeks, Norway will host the international Our Ocean Conference, where several African countries will participate.

The conference will identify solutions for clean, healthy and productive oceans. I look forward to seeing how we can work together both politically and with the private sector, to develop new and innovative solutions for the benefit of our oceans.

I hope that all of you will profit from taking part in this summit, and that it helps you to identify new, exciting opportunities and partnerships.

I wish you all an inspiring conference.

Thank you.