Trade and business relations with the African continent have become one of the strategic priorities of Spain's foreign trade policy, and the links between Madrid and the countries of the south have continued to grow in recent years. The IMEX-Madrid 2022 Internationalisation Week, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, once again takes good account of this reality.
Thus, the second day of this Foreign Trade Fair began yesterday with the round table "Africa. Opportunity for the growth of Spanish companies", an introductory conference that included speeches by several of the representatives attending. Among the speakers at this first colloquium were Víctor Francisco dos Santos Fernandes, Minister of Industry and Trade of Angola; María Manuela dos Santos Lucas, Ambassador of Mozambique in Spain; Hamat N. K Bah, Minister of Culture and Tourism of Gambia; Miguel Edjang Angue, Ambassador of Equatorial Guinea in Spain; and Fatma Omrani, Ambassador of Tunisia. José María Mella Márquez, Emeritus Professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid and General Coordinator of AEMENET (Africa, the Mediterranean and Europe in the era of global integration), moderated the meeting.
However, this first round table was no more than a prelude to the presentations that would later be given by two panels: "Administrations and companies committed to Sustainability in Internationalisation" and "Sustainable Financing in Internationalisation". Both were part of the round table "Administrations and the Financial Sector committed to Sustainable Internationalisation", which was held in the Caja de Música Auditorium of the Palacio de Cibeles, and which was retransmitted via telematic transmission.
Minutes later, the same Auditorium became the stage for the official opening of the event, where the Mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez Almeida, and the Deputy Mayor, Begoña Villacís, travelled to take part in the ceremony. This opening took place after an initial inauguration held on the first day of the week at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism, and was also attended by the Minister of Economy, Finance and Employment of the Community of Madrid, Javier Fernández-Lasquetty; the President of IMEX-Impulso Exterior, Jaime Ussía; and the President of the Madrid Chamber of Commerce, Ángel Asensio Laguna.
After the opening conference, the Mayor of Madrid, as well as several members of his government team and the main organisers and representatives of IMEX-Impulso Exterior, toured the corridors of the fair to see the dozens of stands and delegations that have travelled to the Spanish capital to take part in the event. One of the main objectives of this internationalisation week, which focuses mainly on African countries, is to promote small and medium-sized companies that intend to expand into international markets.
Along these lines, during the first of the day's presentations - the round table "Africa. Opportunity for the growth of Spanish companies" - the representatives of Angola, Mozambique, Tunisia, Gambia and Equatorial Guinea agreed on the importance of the African continent as a trading partner for Spain, and unanimously highlighted the mutual benefits that an increase in trade relations would bring.
"The progressive rapprochement between Spain and Angola has been a natural path", stressed the Angolan minister, Víctor Francisco dos Santos, taking up the idea expressed in Portuguese by the Mozambican Maria Manuela dos Santos: "one of the reasons that favours relations between Madrid and Maputo is their linguistic similarities". In this sense, all the representatives affirmed that the growing stability of their countries represents an added guarantee for Spanish investment, and that "trade represents one of the greatest tools for rapprochement" between powers. This was the view expressed by the Gambian Minister of Culture and Tourism, Hamat N.K. Bah.
For his part, the Ambassador of Equatorial Guinea, Miguel Edjang Angue, in agreement with another of Hamat N.K. Bah's main arguments, addressed the issue of endemic hunger in many African regions, and called for the mobilisation of investment, not only Spanish, but also European, to boost the continent's economy and "prevent it from depending on third countries". Meanwhile, the Tunisian Ambassador to Spain, Fatma Omrani, did not miss the opportunity to encourage "a much broader collaboration" between Spain and Tunisia, stressing the importance of the small North African country as a joint space "for European, African and Arab proposals".
Subsequently, the round table "Administrations and companies committed to Sustainability in Internationalisation" addressed the commitment of administrations to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in internationalisation processes, with the participation of the Director General of the Ministry of Economy, Finance and Employment of Madrid, Juan Manuel López Zafra; the Director General of AMEC (Association of Internationalised Industrial Companies), Joan Tristany; the delegate of the Internationalisation and Cooperation Area of the Madrid City Council, Santiago Saura Martínez; and the Director of the Patents and Technological Information Department of the SPTO, María José de Concepción. All of them under the moderation of the Deputy Director General of the Madrid Chamber of Commerce, Elsa Salvadores.
The round table "Sustainable Financing in Internationalisation" featured the experience and interventions of several representatives and experts from the financial world: the president of the Official Credit Institute (ICO), José Carlos García de Quevedo; the president of Cesce (Compañía Española de Seguros de Crédito a la Exportación), Fernando Salazar; and the director general of COFIDES, Rodrigo Madrazo García. María Rodríguez de la Rúa, Director of Market Intelligence at ICEX, moderated their presentations.