Stella talks to us about East African trade agreements


Library Life — published 12/06/19

Stella recently joined us at The Library. She came to Belgium with a wealth of knowledge from her extensive career in East Africa. Uprooting and going to Belgium has been quite the adventure for her, but we are so happy to have Stella – our very own East African expert – with us at The Library. Here are a few of her insights.

Stella, you are a lawyer and a trade agreement specialist from East Africa. What can we learn in Europe from strategic partnerships in East Africa?

I believe Europe has a lot to benefit from strategic partnerships and collaborative efforts in Africa because of the innovation drive that is sweeping across the African continent. Africa’s long known development challenges like healthcare, infrastructure and education, are currently, the drivers and catalysts for innovation. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.

Luckily, the exponential growth of technology has not left Africa behind. In the past 15 years, mobile phone-usage has exploded across Africa, bringing the complex and diverse continent closer by bridging communication barriers not only in Africa but also with loved one across the globe. This has increased the market for Internet and data suppliers in the continent, which poses as an opportunity for strategic partnerships with telecom companies present in Africa.

African youths are at the forefront of this innovation drive. Sub-Saharan Africa is witnessing ground-breaking innovations e-healthcare solutions and online education solutions backed by wide-spread used of smart-phones and computers connecting like-minded thinkers in strategic partnerships and collaborations to devise solutions to common development challenges across sub-Saharan Africa.

The pervasive usage of mobile phones also led to creation of mobile-money banking systems, which, drastically, revolutionised the banking system landscape especially for small-scale businesses and the informal sector- which dominants most economies in Africa – influencing changes in the way of doing business in the financial sector. The technology behind mobile money banking has been exported to the west. This trend, therefore, represents the coming of age of Africa as the technology creator rather than adopter.

 

Navigating the world’s biggest free trading area with Stella

In terms of trade, the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement purports to create the biggest free trading area in the world. It creates a market of over 1.2 billion people, with a majority population below 30 years. This represents the future work force for the continent and the current and future consumers of goods and services.

Suffice to say that Africa is the future. These innovations and regional as well as continental trade groupings are shaping the business and investment landscape and the development aid received from the west to sub-Saharan Africa. The innovation drive is a big motivation for foreign direct investments in Sub-Saharan Africa, while investment aid is increasingly channelled toward creating enabling legal and regulatory environment for sustainable business development and growth.

With this growth trend, comes the need to make policy reviews and changes aimed at creating business friendly legal frameworks across the board. My expertise in regional trade, trade policy and foreign investment facilitation in East Africa, allows me to consult on sustainable development projects coming from Europe to Africa, essentially for private sector development and trade policy-related technical training for policy makers in Africa.

You just started at The Library, so it might be too soon to tell, but do you think coworking will have an impact on the launch of your business?

Since I have just launched my consultancy business in Europe, I found The Library co-working space an excellent environment to touch base in Europe. Its central location in Brussels, the heart of Europe, puts me in proximity to global development influencers and international policy makers. The Library brings me in contact with members is various professional fields from whom I hope to get insights on how to navigate the highly competitive business environment in Brussels, not to mention the power of networking in terms of referrals with their networks. The library also offers me an insight into the work culture in Europe but in less formal structure. It gives me room to adjust to my new environment in a less stressful way. Above all The Library in a special way has given me a space to keep my career goals alive while also looking after my child.

Read more about Stella here: www.nalwoga.com