The bright prospects were unveiled during a recent seminar hosted by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, which saw the participation of 100 business representatives and an additional 200 enterprises, including corporations and companies in French-speaking countries in Africa via an online platform.
Addressing the event, Le Hoang Oanh, director general of the Asia-Africa Market Department, emphasised that through traditional friendship and growing diplomatic ties, trade co-operation between Vietnam and French-speaking countries in Africa can develop into a bright spot for bilateral relations.
According to the General Department of Vietnam Customs, two-way trade turnover between Vietnam and 32 French-speaking countries throughout Africa during the 2015 to 2019 period increased from US$2.7 billion in 2015 to US$4.5 billion last year, making up 88% of the total trade turnover with Africa.
Rice is a major Vietnamese staple shipped to these markets. The export value of rice has risen steadily in recent years, reaching US$589.4 million last year and making up 14.9% of the market share of rice imports of Francophone countries in Africa.
French-speaking countries in Africa represent an important provider of input materials for local manufacturing industries, such as raw cashew, cotton, copper, and wooden products, with import turnover of these goods accounting for roughly 80% to 90% of total Vietnamese import value from French-speaking countries in Africa.
During the seminar, representatives of African organisations and businesses highlighted the country’s role in Southeast Asia, and expressed their desires to further strengthen bilateral economic and trade ties between both sides.
Many chose to use the platform to laud the great efforts made by the Vietnamese Government in containing the COVID-19 epidemic, maintaining social welfare and restoring the economy in the post-epidemic period. Participants noted the close attention made to market access, product needs, payment methods, and risk avoidance experiences during the course of business co-operation between the two sides.
Luu Thi Hai Ha, director of Ha Dung Handicraft and Trading Company Ltd, pointed out that despite numerous difficulties caused by COVID-19, local businesses should strive to seek fresh opportunities in potential markets such as French-speaking countries in Africa in an attempt to swiftly restore business operations.
Chékou Oussouman, chief representative of the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) Asia-Pacific Regional Office in Hanoi, said Vietnam is considered a gateway to access Southeast Asia for African businesses, while countries from the continent can also serve as attractive destinations for Asian businesses, including those from Vietnam.
He explained that there are similarities between Vietnam and Africa which both possess a young population, natural resources, a diverse range of cultures, and complementary economies. Indeed, there exists a wealth of opportunities to step up economic and trade co-operation between with Francophone countries in Africa.
Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Cao Quoc Hung affirmed that Vietnam has always placed great importance on developing co-operation ties with the Francophone community and will continue to contribute to building a more united and ultimately stronger Francophone community.
Deputy Minister Hung stated that Vietnam has recorded a number of impressive socio-economic development achievements, with GDP last year reaching over US$262 billion, an increase of 7.02% compared to 2018.
Simultaneously, Vietnam has gradually become a major production hub throughout the region and the wider world, serving as an important bridge for global value and supply chains.
Deputy Minister Hung therefore attributed these achievements to the Government’s integration strategy after signing and enforcing 13 free trade agreements (FTAs), while three additional FTAs are in the process of being negotiated and are set to be signed shortly.
Most notably, some new-generation FTAs such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) have created greater opportunities for market expansion and FDI investment.
With a large-scale market and positive growth recorded in recent years, Africa can be viewed as one of the world’s new hubs of economic development, opening up bright prospects for trade and investment co-operation for Vietnamese enterprises, the Deputy Minister added.
As the most dynamically-emerging nation in Southeast Asia with connections to a wide range of markets through FTAs, Vietnam has become an important partner for many African states in the Asia-Pacific region.
As such, it is ready to act as a bridge between French speaking countries in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region in realizing the Francophone Economic Development Strategy.
Hung stressed that Vietnam has pledged to create the optimal conditions for businesses from French-speaking countries in Africa, while also expressing his hope that the International Organization of La Francophonie will continue to support it to strengthen connectivity in economics, trade, and investment with member countries in Africa.