More than 200 representatives from various governments, institutions, the Diplomatic Corps, business organizations and companies from 25 countries met at Confederation of Employers and Industries of Spain (CEOE).
Tunisia’s Minister of Development, Research and International Cooperation, Zied Ladhari, highlighted that the MENA-OECD Business Advisory Council (BAB), which was launched two years ago and is co-chaired by CEOE and the Tunisian employers’ association, UTICA, has worked very well so far. The Minister insisted that this innovative platform aims to succeed in establishing a public-private dialogue among the different countries in the region in order to carry out the political, economic or social reforms that governments must address.
Ladhari stressed the need to multiply dialogue frameworks and the importance of including the private sector. He also positively valued the role of women and young people in society and the impact this will mean for the future and for the creation of new opportunities for inclusive growth. The Tunisian minister pointed out that the political transition in his country amidst a conflictive situation had been possible through dialogue and thanks to the role that UTICA played in that process. In fact, “what Tunisia achieved at the political level we hope to achieve at an economic level,” he said.
The Secretary of State for Commerce, Xiana Margarida Méndez, explained that, following the Arab Spring, MENA countries began a process of reforms. Thus, in 2016 the MENA-OECD Business Advisory Council was created with the aim of involving the private sector more. She stressed that Spain is paying special attention to this initiative, since the MENA region represents a natural market for our companies, present in sectors such as infrastructure, transport, telecommunications, energy, tourism, water or the environment, among others.
She also insisted that we should help and promote the presence of SMEs, and especially access to financing, since they are growth driver for countries. To this end, she explained that, in Spain, companies have financing instruments to invest in third markets, such as FIEX (Fund for Foreign Investments) and FONPYME (Fund for Foreign Investments for SMEs), CESCE (Spanish Company of Export Credit Insurance) or the FIEM fund (Fund for the Internationalization of Spanish Companies).
The youth, GAN and PROMOCIONA
The vice-president of CEOE, Joaquim Gay de Montellà, stressed that the role of business organizations in society should not only be limited to coming up with proposals for the government or regulatory initiatives, but they should also promote and lead, together with companies and other agents of society, innovative initiatives in areas related to sustainability , training or gender. In this regard, he mentioned the Global Learning Network (GAN), which was created by the IOE to exchange good practices and develop initiatives in the training field, both at the international and national levels, through national networks set up in collaboration with the business organizations and companies from each country.
Moreover, Gay de Montellà explained that, in relation to the issue of gender, CEOE together with the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality developed the PROMOCIONA program, whose aim is to raise awareness, foster training, professional development, leadership and promotion of women in management to improve and facilitate their access to decision-making positions in companies. The vice president of CEOE also talked about the creation of a Platform for Young Entrepreneurs in the MENA-OECD region, co-chaired by CEAJE on the Spanish side and CJD on the Tunisian side, in order to create a space where young entrepreneurs may develop their ideas.
The president of UTICA, Samir Majoul, spoke of regional cooperation to promote development and inclusive growth among countries. For this, he believes business organizations have an essential role in mediating between different economic and social agents. He also deems training young people as a priority as well as the need to adapt to the digital age. In addition, he believes the transfer of knowledge, which is key to attracting investment, should be considered as very relevant. Majoul also stressed that adequate and transparent institutional and legal frameworks must be created to develop effective policies and share good practices. Therefore, he considered that the Business Advisory Council is very important to reach these goals.
The head of the Middle East and Africa division of the OECD, Carlos Conde, assured that most of the countries in the MENA region are still very dependent on the State and find it difficult to create jobs, due to the absence of a dynamic private sector. In this regard, he reported that the new platform is an excellent mechanism to attract foreign investment, by providing support to SMEs, training young people and empowering women. Conde insisted that decision-making in society should be a participatory process in which policies are adopted through dialogue and consensus with social and economic agents. In other words, “a relationship of reciprocity is necessary,” he said.