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ICPE organized the 4th annual international conference Africa Day together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, the Club of Former Slovenian Ambassadors, the International African Forum and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia held in Ljubljana on 19-20 May 2015. The conference was inaugurated by Dr. Milan Brglez, the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia. The first day the conference was hosted by ICPE and the second by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia.

This year’s conference entitled ‘Addressing New Development Challenges in Partnership’ brought together approximately two hundred representatives of the political, business, academic, and cultural spheres from Slovenia and other European and African countries, as well as members of the diplomatic corps including the representatives of several ICPE member states.

During the opening ceremony chaired by Peter Toš, President of the Club of Former Slovenian ambassadors addresses were given by Milan Brglez, the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda, and Bogdan Benko, State Secretary and acting Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia.

The President of the National Assembly of Slovenia Dr. Brglez underlined that the Africa Day conference offers the opportunity to acknowledge the progress of the African continent, to start the dialogue about the current challenges and identify the possibilities for mutual cooperation. The Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda Kadaga stressed the crucial role of the democratization process for ensuring a safe political and economic environment in order to increase foreign investments that would trigger a higher need for local working force that would ensure a decent life for the African people and diminish the causes forcing Africans to search for a better life elsewhere. State Secretary Benko presented the framework of Slovenia’s development and humanitarian projects in Africa emphasizing that Africa is among the geographical priorities of Slovenian development cooperation. The president of the Club of Former Slovenian Ambassadors expressed the need to fight against xenophobia in general and particularly if Slovenia were to accept African migrants.

The opening ceremony was followed by three panels devoted to the development cooperation in Africa, development through multiculturalism and multilingualism, and the African community in Slovenia.  

Dr. Anand Asthana, ICPE Director General, who participated as a speaker in the first panel »Development Cooperation and Africa« noted the significant ties that ICPE had with the countries on the African continent in the past but have weakened over time. He announced a pivot to Africa and ICPE’s commitment of enhancing the existing ties and establishing new ones. In this context he also raised the possibility of replicating ICPE’s training models developed for non-African member states in Africa, by giving the example of the management training programme for women executives of Indian Central Public Sector Enterprises, organized by ICPE already for the second consecutive year in Ljubljana in cooperation with ASCI – the Administrative Staff College of India and the Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana.

On the second day of the event the welcome address was delivered by Samo Hribar Milič, President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia and the introductory address by Dr. Stanislav Raščan, Ambassador, Director-General for Economic Diplomacy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia while the keynote speaker was the Commissioner in charge of the Department of the regional market, commerce, competition and cooperation, West African Economic and Monetary Union, Christophe Joseph Marie Dabire. On 20 May the conference focused on the opportunities for investment and enhanced business cooperation between Slovenia, Europe and African countries bearing in mind that Africa currently records a significant growth trajectory, some of the African countries being among the fastest-growing economies in the world hence Africa’s potential arising from its positive demographic trends and the fact that it offers an enormous market characterized by abundant natural resources and an ever-growing middle class. The conference tackled the potential for economic cooperation and mutual investments with Africa. The speakers identified a series of potential lines of development and strengthening the cooperation between Slovenia, Europe and Africa especially in the field of alternative energy solutions, environment protection, water and wastewater management, as well as tourism, agriculture, ITC, constructions and engineering. Additionally, the role of trade agreements, suitable institutional and legal frameworks, infrastructure as well as the necessity of establishing functional diplomatic-consular networks was brought into discussion. Last but not least, the participants emphasized the paramountcy of taking into account cultural differences in order to maximize trade relations.