President of Cape Verde TradeInvest bets on capturing a new type of Chinese private investment. Macau has a special role, being complementary to the role of Cape Verde, says Ana Lima Barber.
Since it was set up in 2016, the Cape Verdean government's new investment agency has looked to Macau and China as targets of interest in capturing projects and opening markets.
The president of Cape Verde Trade Invest, Ana Lima Barber, was in Macau to make known the strategy of economic diversification that goes through a wider tourism package and emerging areas such as industrial production, new information technologies and renewable energy.
China is seen as a major partner with which Cape Verde has an extremely strong relationship. In addition to public projects and bilateral cooperation, the aim is to attract Chinese private investment of a new type.
-Cabo Verde has been trying to set a pace with a view to a new economic dynamic. What are the priorities?
Ana Lima Barber - It is urgent to work in production and diversification. The country has to produce in order to change the trade balance. The dependence on tourism forces the country to change strategy in order to work on other items. We cannot generalize this. We therefore need to work not only on sun and beach tourism, but also on an inclusive model with event tourism, nautical tourism, cruise, ocean, diving, mountain, historical or volcanic tourism. To do so, we have to make reforms and adopt targeted policies. Another point is health tourism.
- Does Cape Verde already have the necessary infrastructure to take this step?
A.L.B. - We are planning to equip our own country with these infrastructures but also with the laws needed to open the doors to international clinics. We must learn from international practice to naturally understand the way to forward. But we cannot take the time that others took. We have to be faster. We need renovations, which do not happen overnight.
- What steps have been taken to make Cape Verde a more attractive investment destination since this agency was created?
A.L.B. - We have carried out several reforms, such as our tax benefit code or, at the export level, we have the Lazareto Industrial Park to attract industries to settle in Cape Verde. In the old days you could only rent the land, you did not have the possibility to buy it. We have to create policies that can attract companies to settle in Cape Verde.
Another bet is in removing bureaucracy of public entities. We want to work to be more investor friendly. Access to credit for small and medium-sized enterprises is much bigger. If we want to have a strong private sector, we have to equip it with instruments that allow it to be. In addition, inter-island connectivity is important, in a country that is an archipelago, allowing the development of islands, sustainable and balanced and integrated.
- What is Macau's role in this investment attraction strategy and in this development plan?
A.L.B. - There is of course a special relationship with Macau and China because the work we have been doing is remarkable. Macau is a China Plataforma and we have been working towards increasing this business and trade relationship with China which has taken significant steps. We want to be a Plataforma from China to Africa and beyond. And we have all the conditions to be. Not only because of the political and economic stability that we have, which is exceptional, but also the level of attraction we have in terms of tax incentives for companies based here, having preferential access to markets such as the Economic Community of African States Western Europe, the European Union and the United States of America.
- Have you witnessed concrete interest and steps taken by Macau?
A.L.B. - Yes It is important to realize it when working in a relationship between cities and countries. We have investors from Macau investing in Cape Verde, namely the entrepreneur David Chow. This shows that Cape Verde is a reliable country
We are also make part of the dynamic Range and Route. Macau, not only at the level of investment, such as the Forum, all the events such as the Macau International Fair where we'll be the special partner. This relationship is solid and strong, and it is based on friendship but also on this whole vision that China has for the world. Cape Verde will complement Macau. Never competing.
- Regarding the project of entrepreneur David Chow, how do you fit this project in the context of the game and tourism development?
A.L.B. - This project will complement the development of a new segment of tourists because other areas are linked to the game, to pull some international brands and bring development to the local economy in terms of food supply, yachts, laundries, fees to municipalities. There is a multiplier effect. It's an important investment for the country. Who invests this value is because he believes in the country.
- With regard to mainland China, what kind of new investment would you like to attract?
A.L.B. - In terms of Chinese investment, we are working to attract the private sector, especially in terms of information and communication technologies and e-commerce. This area has the training component, which is very important for our technology center. It enables having areas of know-how of the new partnerships also in the context of Cape Verde as exporter of services. In the field of Chinese industry, why not use Cape Verde as a Plataforma for re-export to other African countries, taking into account the strategic position? Renewable energies can also be important.
There is a new private Chinese company that is about to enter Cape Verde. Other companies will follow.
- The Made in Cape Verde project is one of the country's priorities. What does it consist of?
A.L.B. - We have been exporting services, from an importing country to a supplier country. This is an important point. As about our products, we have the fishery products. Our goal now is to look for the niche markets of exporter qualification and product qualification.
I am talking, for example, about grog, cheese, coffee, wine, gourmet salt, ornamental stones, cosmetics, special soaps, oils, biological products. We are talking about groups of women entrepreneurs.
We want to work on these niches. In terms of exports, there are two aspects: one is to attract companies to use the Cape Verde plataform, the other is at an internal level, working these niches. It is also important here the support of banking sector.
- What about China as a destination for exports the products Made in Cape Verde?
A.L.B. - The work that is being done is about the promotion and knowledge of the country in China. We can not export if we do not have the Cape Verde brand as a quality brand in our products. Secondly, we need to work on partnerships between Chinese companies and our companies. That is why I need the instruments, such as double taxation agreements, to protect investments. By working in partnerships, we empower our companies that will continue to be Cape Verdean, but reach this market because they automatically internationalize. Biological products are highly consumable and we can work on this.
- The blue economy is in fashion and both Cape Verde and China have been betting on this sector. What potential exists at this level?
ALB - At the level of the blue economy, Cape Verde is betting strongly. Of course, 99 percent of Cape Verde is sea. There is already a commission working on this. Briefly, the phases to be developed will be known. There is a huge entire area with business opportunities. We are talking about aquaculture, mapping, among other activities. We are talking about a very interesting strategic plan. We have a special focus in this area.
- Is diversification also here?
A.L.B. Yes Blue economy, fishing industry, information technologies, renewable energy. Our message is: Cape Verde is open for business. Cape Verde is a business destination. The key role of the diaspora must be stressed. There is an exceptional reform here that is the status of the diaspora that will allow the diaspora to have other benefits, other exemptions to invest in new areas.
- How is the process of the Special Economic Zone of Saint Vincent and the involvement of China in this and other projects?
A.L.B. - It's going on. The relationship with China is extremely strong. China has been betting on several areas, in the public part. I make here a reference that must be stressed. The university campus (in the city of Praia), which will be ready soon, will allow us to have five thousand students, 500 teachers, several areas and allow us to train and train our people. Human capital is highly important to us. This increase relative to the commercial and economic relationship has been important.
- It has cherished the promotion of entrepreneurship in the feminine. What results have come trough?
A.L.B. - Gender is something that matters a lot to the country. I cannot stop talking about the associations of women entrepreneurs. The Cape Verdean woman is very enterprising, a warrior. She is a woman who does not give up, fights and succeeds - she is an asset of the country.