Michel Bauza, France-North Africa-Tunisia Business Director at La Presse: “Tunisian entrepreneurs are in the perspective of construction and investment”

From 27 to 29 September, Tunisia will host the first edition of the Africa-France Forum for Ecological and Energy Transition. Organized by Business France and the French Agency for Ecological Transition (Ademe) with the support of AFD and Schneider Electric, this event offers opportunities for exchanges between public decision-makers, entrepreneurs, principals and financial institutions on issues of sustainable development in Africa. Met on the sidelines of the press conference presenting the Forum, which was recently held in Tunis, Michel Bauza, business director for France-North Africa, gave us additional information about this major African event.

Can you tell us about the Africa-France Forum for Ecological and Energy Transition?

We are organizing from 27 to 29 September the first Africa-France Forum on Ecological and Energy Transition to identify technical and operational solutions to the goals of sustainable development in Africa. It is a forum that will bring together companies from 8 countries in Tunis: 7 African countries and France. Around 300 companies will participate and deal with various topics. An important aspect will be sobriety and energy efficiency, because the best energy is the one we don’t consume, and I think that today, with rising energy prices, all entrepreneurs realize that. Another aspect regarding water management will be addressed because water stress is quite significant in Tunisia and North Africa. The participants will discuss solutions and different options to reduce consumption and reuse the resource. The goal is to be more economical and respect the environment. Finally, another section will deal with the sustainable city. All these conferences will help to identify solutions for a successful ecological transition, which is now a necessity for all producers and countries in the coming years.

This is a first edition, it is the first time that this forum is organized in Africa, and we are happy to organize it in Tunisia for part of the continent, because we want companies that come from Egypt, from Libya, Algeria, but also from Senegal, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire. The ambition is really to be a meeting place for entrepreneurs and institutions. We will have the pleasure of counting on experts from Ademe, the Ecological Transition Agency, from the UN to prepare an inventory of the sustainable development goals in the 8 countries and the presentation of solutions, carried by the French companies and research centers. The forum also includes a section presenting funding from donors, as well as the public and private tools available to implement projects and solutions that enable this ecological transition.

In what form will these funds be used?

The financing aspect is important. We suggested donors who have dedicated programs for these countries to come and explain them, present them. It is the French Development Agency (AFD), our partner, who is piloting this component with representatives of the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the EIB. It is therefore not about new funding, but about making good use of the existing mechanisms. We have also planned a presentation of tools to facilitate companies’ acquisition of these technologies. I am thinking, for example, of everything developed by Expertise France with the “Sunref” system. These are interesting financings that enable companies to switch to CHP production, better insulation, pollution… therefore to highly operational solutions. STB Bank will present its offer in Tunisia and our colleagues from Bpifrance will present the solutions they offer to entrepreneurs to finance purchases and projects with French partners. The regional economic service team will present the French line of credit, Proparco private financing… We will not talk about new programs today, but we will maximize and improve all the mechanisms that exist for companies.

So the purpose of the forum is to strengthen the companies’ contribution to the ecological and energy transition in these countries?

Our ambition is that entrepreneurs who provide solutions can present them, exchange with other entrepreneurs, principals, but also with public actors, in order to identify the best technologies adapted to the different scenarios. Because the situation in Tunisia is different from the situation in Senegal or Egypt. We hope that from this dynamic in Tunis, companies will formalize partnerships to move forward on this path. Because the ecological transition does not happen in a snap of the fingers, is not finished in a month, it will be accomplished over years of persistence. It is useful to have key moments where we allow companies, research centers and operators to come together in Africa.

We are going to present what exists, the technologies that are adapted to the different countries and the tools that can be implemented quite quickly because of the urgency of this transition. The “Tenerrdis” competitiveness cluster in energy, the one specializing in water, the France “Water Team” and the Grand-Est region are effective partners in bringing together this expertise.

Will startups be there?

Yes. In these themes, we have companies that offer solutions, especially the main partner of the “Schneider Electric” forum, which has proven technologies, or even “Air Liquide”, which aims to be tomorrow’s champion of hydrogen. There will also be many SMEs and around twenty start-ups. These startups, we will push them, place them with two partners. The first is “Total Energies”, which supports 13 French start-ups. They will pitch and present their solutions for Africa. On the other hand, the group “Orange” will promote 6 Tunisian startups. During these three days, these young shoots will be able to present their ideas and technologies and make connections with operators in different countries. We hope that our Egyptian and Cameroonian friends will find ideas from these start-ups to develop business flows in their markets.

What does the choice of Tunisia as host country for the forum mean?

The choice of Tunisia is due to three reasons. The first is its geostrategic position. It is in the center of North Africa with easy connections to most of the countries affected by the 2022 edition. It is easy and useful to assemble these delegations in Tunis. The second element concerns the skills and expertise available in Tunisia on technologies related to energy or ecological transition. There are companies, design offices, qualified engineers and we think it is a good thing to be able to triangulate between French, Tunisian and African companies. This will create value and employment for both coasts of the Mediterranean. The third point is based on the quality of our bilateral relations. For France, Tunisia is a flagship country for joint development, with more than 1,400 French companies employing more than 150,000 people. So it is fertile ground for initiating new dynamics and demonstrating the robustness of the companies and competences. Welcome to M.me the head of government and support from the ministries of environment as well as from the ministries of industry, mines and energy confirm Tunisia’s interest in taking a leading position in these subjects. The challenges of ecological transition span several years, with the need to build long-term partnerships. We believe that Tunisian entrepreneurs are in this perspective of construction and investment, because tomorrow it will be a requirement of the principals, whether they are European, African or American. A company in Tunisia is facing these challenges and we hope that this forum will be an opportunity for it to find solutions to initiate its ecological transition.

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