RI to propose new platform to boost Asian-African business links

Officials meeting: The Foreign Ministry’s director-general for Asia-Pacific and African affairs, Yuri Octavian Thamrin (center, on stage) presides over the Asian-African Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) at the Jakarta Convention Center on Sunday, flanked by director of Asia-Pacific intraregional cooperation Raden Mohammad Benyamin Scott Carnadi (left) and Indonesia’s permanent representative to the UN Desra Percaya (right). The SOM began on Sunday to discuss the outcomes of the Asian-African leaders’ summit. (Photo: JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

Indonesia plans to propose the establishment of a business council to forge investment and trade cooperation between business communities in Asia and Africa during the upcoming 2015 Asian-African Business Summit (AABS) in Jakarta.

The proposed platform, called the Asia Africa Business Council (AABC), would be aimed at providing more regular meetings between key business players in the two continents with a hope that any inked agreements could be followed up in a more timely and effective manner, AABS Chairman Noke Kiroyan said.

“Learning from the experience we had during the 2005 AABS on the sidelines of the 50th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference, we think it is necessary to establish the AABC, which will enable us to concretely implement the decisions taken during the AABS,” Noke said during a recent interview with The Jakarta Post.

The 2015 AABS is set to take place on April 21 at the Jakarta Convention Center (JCC) as part of the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference of 1955.

The summit will focus on four major topics: infrastructure development, trade, agribusiness and maritime affairs.

According to Noke, the AABC will also serve as a monitoring agency to maintain networks and encourage follow-ups to the AABS so the agreements can be translated into more real business deals and partnerships.

“In 2005, we managed to draft a business declaration between Asian and African countries. However, it has not run optimally. To that end, we think such a council is crucial,” he said.

Noke added that, if the proposal was approved, AABS participants would then decide the council’s organization structure, framework and mechanisms, as well as its headquarters. “We hope the council can be based in Jakarta. We’ll see,” said the vice chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin).

Indonesian Ambassador to South Africa Suprapto Martosetomo welcomed the idea. “To be honest, we have seen so many business agreements that are left forgotten because of a lack of follow up,” he said at his office in Pretoria recently.

China’s response to the AABC proposal, however, could also be interesting given the fact that the Asian superpower already has a massive economic presence in many African countries. The China-Africa Business Council (CABC) has also been established to assist Beijing’s businesses in cooperation with their African partners.

Singapore also has a special platform to foster trade and investment with African businesses called the Africa Singapore Business Forum (ASBF).

As many as 400 prominent CEOs will attend the 2015 AABS. About half of them will be Indonesians, with the remainder coming from African and other Asian nations.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is scheduled to deliver a keynote speech. Initially, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has confirmed his attendance at the 60th anniversary commemoration, was also expected to deliver a speech during the 2015 AABS.

The outcome of the 2015 AABS, which will have the theme “Realization of Asia Africa Partnership for Progress and Prosperity”, will also be presented during the Asian-African Summit on April 22 and 23.

“With the growth of Asia and Africa as global economic regions, the 2015 AABS will provide an opportunity for business leaders from both regions to promote private sector partnerships and strengthen business collaboration in various fields,” Kadin chairman Suryo Bambang Sulisto said.

Lasro Simbolon, the director of African affairs at the Foreign Ministry, said the volume of trade between the two countries was still low. “We need to pay more attention to Africa because it is a non-traditional but promising alternative market for Indonesia and Asia,” he said.

As supporting events, the Asia Africa Business Fair and Asia Africa Business Matching will be held on April 22.

The Trade Ministry’s director general of international trade cooperation, Bachrul Chairi, said the ministry expected the summit to help boost Indonesia’s exports, which have been targeted to grow by 300 percent in the next five years.

According to Bachrul, the 2015 AABS will also be utilized to promote Indonesia’s strategic industrial products. A number of state-owned producers will showcase their products, such as the aircraft of PT Dirgantara Indonesia, armored personnel carriers (PT Pindad), dock ships (PT Kodja Bahari), solar power (PT LEN Industri) and fire trucks (PT New Sentosa).


Source: The Jakarta Post, April 20, 2015.

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