Rapid economic development and an improving business climate in sub-Saharan Africa offer great opportunities for Dutch companies.
Specific knowledge and technology in the food and agri sectors and in the infrastructure and energy sectors are in great demand as the region develops its potential.
With the right access and partnerships, Dutch companies can play an increasingly important role in this development as both economic growth and investment are set to accelerate.
Global law firm Linklaters organised Africa: Empowering; a seminar held in Amsterdam bringing together experts from Linklaters’ Africa practice, a number of prominent panellists, South African law firm Webber Wentzel and the Southern African Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (SANEC).
The seminar was attended by 200 business leaders and representatives from African governments.
Professor Rob van Tulder of RSM Erasmus University, said: ‘”Over 2000 Dutch companies are already doing business in Sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in imports and exports and with relatively little investment,”
Van Tulder who is co-author of a strategic guide for Dutch entrepreneurs in Africa, added: “The Netherlands has a lot to offer in the key sectors of development. But it will take more innovative strategies and an inclusive approach for Dutch firms to gain a sustainable competitive position and seize the unmistakable opportunities Africa offers.”
The Dutch government actively supports corporate investment in low and middle-income countries, as its policy focuses on development through trade.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced the Dutch Good Growth Fund, a €750 million facility for SMEs operating in emerging markets and for financing of local SMEs.
Dutch SMEs that make investments in or export goods to these countries that are relevant to development, can call on the fund.
Activities from local SMEs can also be financially supported. Simon Smits, Director-General for Foreign Economic Relations, explained at the seminar how this new direction in supporting development stimulates both Dutch and African trade and business.
Speakers at the seminar also included Kennedy Bungane, Chief Executive, Barclays Africa Regional Management, Pieter Bootsma, Executive VP Commercial Marketing AirFrance KLM, Dr Vic Prins, Director Aviation at Royal HaskoningDHV, Peter van As, General Manager, DIAGEO Angola, Peter Leon, Partner of Webber Wentzel and Dr Daniella Strik, Linklaters Amsterdam Head of Litigation and Arbitration.
Linklaters’ Africa practice has focused on the African continent for more than 30 years, with experience in over 50 jurisdictions.
In response to increasing demand for its services, the firm has complemented and strengthened its position in Africa recently by entering into a collaborative alliance with Webber Wentzel.
The bond also strengthens this leading South African law firm, says partner Peter Leon. “Cross-border deals and multi-jurisdictional matters require a combination of international experience and know-how and on-the-ground knowledge and resources.”
Doing business in sub-Saharan Africa has its own demands, notes Martijn Koopal, a partner of Linklaters in Amsterdam who advises on an extensive government energy purchase programme in South-Africa.
“It takes an understanding of how these markets work and a network to find your way. As we have a well-established practice focusing on the African continent, we are well positioned to help clients with our specialist knowledge of African legal systems, including English, French and Portuguese-based systems.”