Tunisia will host, from September 27 to 29, the first edition of the Africa-France Forum for Ecological and Energy Transition. Organized by Business France and the French Agency for Ecological Transition (Ademe) with the support of AFD and Schneider Electric, this event offers opportunities for exchanges between public decision-makers, entrepreneurs, principals and financial institutions on sustainable development issues in Africa. Met on the sidelines of the press conference presenting the Forum, which was held recently in Tunis, Michel Bauza, France-North Africa Business Director, gave us further information on this major African event.
Can you tell us about the Africa-France Forum for Ecological and Energy Transition?
We are organizing from September 27 to 29 the first Africa-France Forum on Ecological and Energy Transition to identify technical and operational solutions for the objectives of sustainable development in Africa. It is a forum that will bring together companies from 8 countries in Tunis: 7 African countries and France. About 300 companies will participate and will deal with different topics. An important aspect will be sobriety and energy efficiency, because the best energy is that which we do not consume, and I think that today, with rising energy prices, all entrepreneurs realize it. A second aspect relating to water management will be addressed, because water stress is quite significant in Tunisia and North Africa. Participants will discuss solutions and different possibilities to reduce consumption and reuse the resource. The objective is to be more economical and respectful of the environment. Finally, another section will concern the sustainable city. All these conferences will contribute to identifying solutions for a successful ecological transition, which is now an imperative for all manufacturers and countries for the coming years.
This is a first edition, it is the first time that this forum is organized in Africa, and we are happy to organize it in Tunisia for part of the continent, since we will have companies coming from Egypt, from Libya, Algeria, but also from Senegal, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire. The ambition is to truly be a meeting place for entrepreneurs and institutions. We will have the pleasure of counting with experts from Ademe, the Ecological Transition Agency, from the UN to draw up an inventory of the Sustainable Development Goals in the 8 countries and the presentation of solutions, carried by the French companies and research centers. The forum also includes a section presenting financing by donors, as well as the public and private tools available, to implement projects and solutions that allow this ecological transition.
In what form will these funds be deployed?
The funding aspect is important. We proposed to donors, who have dedicated programs for these countries, to come and explain them, present them. It is the French Development Agency (AFD), our partner, which is piloting this component with representatives of the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the EIB. So it’s not about new funding, but about making good use of the existing mechanisms. We have also planned a presentation of tools to facilitate the appropriation of these technologies by companies. I am thinking, for example, of everything developed by Expertise France with the “Sunref” system. These are interesting financings that allow companies to switch to cogeneration, better insulation, depollution… therefore, to very operational solutions. STB Bank will present its offer in Tunisia and our colleagues from Bpifrance will present the solutions they offer to entrepreneurs to finance purchases and projects with French partners. The Regional Economic Service team will present the French Line of Credit, Proparco private financing… We are not going to talk about new programs today, but we are going to maximize and enhance all the mechanisms that exist for companies.
So, the forum aims to strengthen the contribution of companies to the ecological and energy transition in these countries?
Our ambition is that entrepreneurs, who provide solutions, can present them, exchange with other entrepreneurs, principals, but also with public operators, so as to identify the best technologies adapted to the different scenarios. Because the situation in Tunisia is different from the situation in Senegal or Egypt. We hope that from this dynamic of Tunis, companies will formalize partnerships to move forward on this path. Because the ecological transition is not done by snapping your fingers, is not done in a month, it will be accomplished over years with perseverance. It is useful to have key moments where we allow companies, research centers and operators to meet in Africa.
We are going to present what exists, the technologies adapted to the different countries and the tools that can be implemented fairly quickly, because there is urgency in this transition. The “Tenerrdis” competitiveness cluster in energy, the one specializing in water France “Water Team” and the Grand-Est Region are effective partners for bringing together this expertise.
Will startups be there?
Yes. In these themes, we have companies that offer solutions, in particular the main partner of the “Schneider Electric” forum, which has proven technologies, or even “Air Liquide”, which aims to be tomorrow’s champion of hydrogen. There will also be many SMEs and around twenty start-ups. These startups, we are going to push them, position them with two partners. The first is “Total Energies” which supports 13 French start-ups. They will pitch and present their solutions for Africa. On the other hand, the “Orange” group will promote 6 Tunisian startups. During these three days, these young shoots will be able to present their ideas and technologies and create links with operators in different countries. We hope that our Egyptian and Cameroonian friends will find ideas from these start-ups, to develop business flows in their markets.
What does the choice of Tunisia as the host country of the Forum denote?
The choice of Tunisia is due to three reasons. The first is its geostrategic position. It is at the center of North Africa with easy connections to most of the countries concerned by the 2022 edition. It is easy and useful to bring these delegations together in Tunis. The second element concerns the skills and expertise that exist in Tunisia on technologies related to energy or ecological transition. There are companies, design offices, qualified engineers, and we think that being able to triangulate between French, Tunisian and African companies is a good thing. This will create value and employment for both shores of the Mediterranean. The third point is based on the quality of our bilateral relationship, Tunisia is for France a flagship co-development country, with more than 1,400 French companies employing more than 150,000 people. So it’s a fertile ground for initiating new dynamics and demonstrating the resilience of businesses and skills. The welcome of M.me the Head of Government and the support of the Ministries of the Environment, as well as that of Industry, Mines and Energy confirm Tunisia’s interest in holding a leading position on these subjects. The challenges of ecological transition span several years, with the need to build long-term partnerships. We believe that Tunisian entrepreneurs are in this perspective of construction and investment, because this will be, tomorrow, a requirement on the part of principals whether they are European, African or American. A company in Tunisia is faced with these challenges and we hope that this forum will be an opportunity for it to find solutions in order to initiate its ecological transition.