Africa is continent of opportunities for Italian business

Africa is a continent of multiple opportunities for Italian businesses, Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta, the president of SACE, the Italian export credit agency, told AGI news agency in an interview to coincide with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s visit to the African continent.

The message launched by Ambassador Castellaneta to Italian businesses is positive and encouraging. He said: “Despirte five years of deep recession, they have become, actually they have been obliged to become, more performing, have dedicated time and money to research and, in a word, have become more competitive.”

“Made in Italy’ products are driving the economic recovery, opening new growth opportunities and repositioning companies on the market despite geopolitical tensions and market volatility”, he added.

Ambassador Castellaneta has been the president of the Italian export credit agency for many years and therefore he has become a long-dated expert of what goes on in the world.

Taking a look at the figures, Castellaneta pointed out: “according to the latest figures published by ISTAT, exports to extra-EU countries rose 3.6 percent in 2015. This figure gives us food for thought because it means that we have continued to grow despite the difficult cycle and I’m convinced that this percentage will continue to rise.”

In addition to the financial and insurance services that SACE provides to enterprises, of great importance are also the missions that the government organises in several macro areas.

On the specific case of Africa, Mr Castellaneta explained: “We truly believe in this continent and we are happy when Renzi goes there because it is an important signal for countries that offer great prospects.

“ For example Ghana and Senegal are two markets that perfectly fit the concept of frontier market; they are relatively underexplored but capable of offering great opportunities to small and medium-sized enterprises if they are matched with an adequate training in the sectors that are instrumental to development like agribusiness, infrastructures and power production and distribution”.

The case of Nigeria is slightly different because, he said: “It is a large market that has outgrown that of South Africa in terms of percentage of GDP, where foreign companies have to factor into their costs critical security conditions and a complex regulatory framework.”

Nonetheless, he added, the country offers many opportunities in the sectors of energy, automotive, infrastructures and transports.

Apart from Africa, Castellaneta is convinced that Italian companies are “perfectly capable of standing up to international competition”.

The only critical aspect remains financial support, as the Italian industrial fabric is mainly made up of SMEs, which have models, ideas, professionalism to develop but they are mostly ensnared by a fossilised system, weighed down by the difficulty of accessing credit, he indicated.

He said: “This is where we step in: the business plan that the ‘Cassa Depositi e Prestiti’ (a financial company under public control) has just released sets down the SACE group as the main interface for companies wanting to export abroad. So, together with Simest and other partners in the group, we intend to build SACE into an export support service.” GNA

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