The private sector association of the Djibouti Chamber of Commerce (CCD), marked its 110th anniversary by hosting a successful forum and international trade fair at the public conference center located in the heart of their capital.
The event began on Sunday December 3 and continued through the end of the week. It cost CCD, who prepared for a year close to two million USD. Equipment was brought in from abroad to construct adequate spaces and meeting halls.
Top international experts were part of the forum, and although they discussed many topics, their primary focus was on practical integration of the African continent and particularly the eastern Africa sub region.
The president of CCD, Youssouf Moussa Dawaleh, told Capital that economic and other integrations have to be real.
He quoted Paul Kagamen the Rwandese President saying the implementation of integration has to be down to earth and become practical.
Besides the forum several sideline discussions occurred. For instance, the first Ethio- Djibouti Tour Operators meeting went on during the week; while the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association and its Djibouti counterpart met and took steps to make their relationship stronger.
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Youssouf Moussa Dawaleh, President of the Djibouti Chamber of Commerce, said “This Trade Fair and Forum has connected the Djibouti business community and the world. The country’s key development strategy which will transform Djibouti into a regional hub in the next decade was the inspiration behind the forum. In this high-level exchange, best practices, relevant strategies and real solutions for the development of regional infrastructures through PPP were discussed. The aim of the forum was to support Djibouti so that it can take its place in regional and international trade to boost its long-term economic growth.”
The president lauded the great success of his chamber convincing several exhibiters throughout the world to participate in this new fair. He said that over 250 companies from around the world participated. “We have registered a marvelous achievement in our first experience,” he told Capital.
Companies from the Middle East, Far East, Europe, Africa, and the US worked to introduce their companies to visitors and other participants.
The fair included all sectors like construction, finance, logistics and the service industry.
According to Youssouf, additional participants were willing to offer more money to lease the booths since the fair began on Sunday.
According to experts these types of fairs are crucial since the country is looking to establish the biggest free zone facility in the region following the model of Dubai and Singapore. “We need similar events to create a market linkage between other companies that come from different corners of the world,” one of the Djiboutian exhibitors who was showing his product, told Capital. He considered the fair and the forum to be successful. “We have met with local and international visitors, which is new for us,” he added.
Companies from Ethiopia were expected to be part of the fair but only one showed up. Shamebo Fitamo Ethiopian ambassador to Djibouti, told Ethiopian media that six Ethiopian companies were registered to participate in the fair, but they did not come.
Some of the Djibouti private sector actors that Capital interviewed said that at least companies that have businesses with Djibouti were supposed to be part of the fair.
“Marble, furniture and other products are imported from Ethiopia,” a trader in Djibouti said. “I don’t understand why these companies did not attend the fair because it was a good opportunity to expand their market linkage here and in other regional markets,” he said.
However the CCD president said that the lack of participation from Ethiopia is because the event was the first of its kind. “I hope in the coming future a crowd of Ethiopian businesses will be here,” he added.
Carols Lopes (Prof), former head of ECA, Constantinos Berhe, an economic expert, Ilyas Moussa Dawaleh, Minister of Economy and Finance of Djibouti are some of the panelists who explained about regional integration and private investment in infrastructure.
They said that in addition to government assistance in regional integration private sector activity is crucial for realizing inclusive integration in the region and the continent.
Experts from over 20 countries attended the panels, according to Youssouf. He said that this is a good beginning to expand such kind of dialogues for the sake of regional economic prosperity.
The main issue mentioned at the discussion was the model of Ethiopia and Djibouti, who expanded their linkage in every sub-sector of infrastructure including water and telecom cable. They also stated this will be a symbol for the rest of the sub continent to begin the expected achievements in the future.
CCD is a strong private sector association formed 110 years ago and it is one of the pioneer chambers in the region. It organized this event for the first time. At the session the former president of CCD, Seid Ali, who served the chamber from 1957 to 2003 and made it strong, was recognized by the current leaders of the chamber and by government officials.
The fair and forum was opened by Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed, Prime Minister of Djibouti. It continued for approximately a week. The president said they plan to hold the forum and fair regularly.