Finnish companies should turn their eyes to African youth
“As an innovative country, Finland could develop products for the technology-driven young age group in Africa”, says Perry Mapani, who was recently appointed the head of the Zambia Development Agency, which is responsible for development cooperation and trade in Zambia.
Mapani visited Finland together with a Zambian business delegation who were looking for partners and trade opportunities in Finland.
The Zambian population is growing quickly, and almost half of them are under 16 years old. According to Mapani, a good business idea would be to develop alternatives to expensive smartphones that would increase interest among young people and could be offered to Africa’s growing young population.
“Finnish companies should recognise and make use of the outstanding IT expertise of our young population.”
Mapani feels that Zambia could use Finland’s innovative expertise. Information technology would offer solutions for health care and industrial parks, and product warehousing in agriculture, for instance.
“Zambia has vast natural resources, for whose utilisation Finland has a lot to offer”, Mapani says.
A 650 million euro market
“Through Zambia, it is possible to reach not only its 17 million population, but also a market area covering 650 million people in the neighbouring countries”, Mapani points out. “Zambia is a stable country and one of the best investment targets in Africa. Our ranking in the World Bank’s index, which measures the operating environment of companies, has also risen.”
According to Mapan, many companies in Zambia are looking for trade partners in Finland. There are already about twenty companies in Zambia, and more will be established. Finnish companies have already been engaged in the mining industry for a long time. In addition to information technology, opportunities are available in other fields, such as forestry and agriculture and tourism.
“Zambia is the food basket of Africa, although we also want to export other products than just raw materials, and process agricultural products for exports.”
Getting rid of barriers to trade
The first thing Mapani wants to do during his term is to get rid of barriers to trade. Having moved from the private sector to ZDA, Mapani was surprised by the amount of bureaucracy he faced.
“The government has recognised the need to reduce bureaucracy and seeks economic growth led by the private sector. We should also make Finnish and Zambian companies meet without the burden of bureaucracy.”
Timo Olkkonen, Ambassador of Finland to Zambia, considers that the future of Africa lies strongly in trade instead of development aid. The relations between Finland and Zambia are undergoing a transition phase.
“The challenges faced by Zambia, such as quick population growth and climate change, offer many opportunities to Finnish companies. Sometimes companies must also take a risk. When they have taken the first step, our diplomatic mission can help them in many ways”, Olkkonen says.
As traditional development cooperation is decreasing, Finland will channel its support even more strongly to developing the private sector. This will improve the operating opportunities for companies and create a foundation for trade between the countries.
50 years have today elapsed since diplomatic relations were established between Finland and Zambia. Long-term development cooperation has created a solid foundation for developing trade between Finland and Zambia.
“Our long cooperation has developed mutual trust, which is also a good basis for trade”, Mapani says.
The author works at the Department for Communications in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.