16th Francophonie Summit held in Madagascar: “a great opportunity for the country to showcase its potential” Ylias Akbaraly
The 16th Francophonie Summit held for the first time in Antananarivo (Madagascar) from 22th to 27th Novembrer is « a great opportunity for the country to showcase its potential”, said Ylias Akbaraly, Chairman of Sipromad Group, one of the fifth richest man in Francophonie. He has welcomed the Summit calling it as “an ideal platform for Madagascar to position itself as the potential Tiger of the Indian Ocean and a huge opportunity for African businesses to strike new partnerships. ” This year’s theme is “Shared growth and responsible development: conditions for stability around the world and within La Francophonie”. In 1989, Mr Akbaraly, started with a staff of 20 and a turnover of USD 20,000. He has turned the family business into a multimillion dollar conglomorate today with over 3,000 staff , a turnover of over USD 150 million . Sipromad Group has offices in Paris, Dubai and Mauritius and want to expand his company. In an deeper interview, Ylias Akbaraly discusses his vision of sustainable development in Madagascar and in Africa.
By Houmi Ahamed-Mikidache
Eraenvironnement.com : For the first time, Madagascar is hosting the Francophone Summit, this country has many challenges related to the fight against poverty. How will this event benefit the country located in the Indian Ocean?
Ylias Akbaraly: This is a big chance for Madagascar and for the businessmen in Madagascar because there are many delegations, heads of state and important businessmen attending the Summit. For example Morocco. King Mohamed VI is here with over 200 businessmen. So, I believe it’s a great opportunity for the country to showcase its potential. We are also signing some deals on the occasion in banking which will help in growing our business in Africa.
Madagascar can be the Tiger of the Indian Ocean, the reason is very simple first, our location (right in between Asia and Africa). Second, we are the biggest country in the Indian Ocean and third, our population. We have a young population which is well educated. The government should look into simplifying regulations, making it easier for entrepreneurs and foreign businessmen to come, to settle, and to start a business. I will say that the investors too should offer the best education and training to the « young generation. »
You have invested in a wild range of sectors from property (realty), Agrobusiness, aviation to hydro electricity (infrastructure), in Madagascar. Madagascar is seen as of one the emerging tourism place in Africa. How do you see the tourism industry growing in this country?
Compared to Mauritius which gets over 1 million tourists, Madagascar gets about 200,000 per year, so there is a huge potential here for this country. Madagascar should focus on tourism. But we need to invest in infrastructure and connectivity. Tourism is one of the most important sectors where Madagascar can really develop, with its beautiful beaches and unique flora and fauna. We can organise many types of tourism here such as beaches in the north of Madagascar, or a visit to enjoy our unique flora and fauna, which is very popular with Japanese tourists. Tourism will help us in getting foreign exchange to Madagascar. Madagascar offers tremendous potential for Ecotourism too. In fact, in the East coast every July, big Whales come to the beaches for breeding. It is a big tourist attraction. A thriving tourism industry will help create jobs and benefit the economy. We are very fortunate, we have Sun, Sand and Sea. What we should do is to concentrate our efforts on infrastructure, it means on road, on telecommunication which is already on a very high priority list, on hotels of course, and on airlines. When I’m talking about airlines, I mean international and domestic airlines with which we should have a very competitive price because this is one of the reasons to develop the tourism.
Access to electricity is challenging in Madagascar, especially in the rural area.How you promote renewable energies in Madagascar through your company ?
We are in the renewable sector. We are investing in hydropower. The first one is already in operation. We will start a second one for 30MW capacity soon. And we will launch a third one for larger capacity. We are thinking of diversifying into solar power as well. The reason being we have sun almost all year around. Solar energy could be an ideal solution – as it is available round the year, it is cost effective and is accessible to the population.
Your company involves many job related to the environment, how do you see the integration of youth in your company?
Of course, Africa has a fast growing youth population. What does its young generation need today? They need good education, good health, and they need to connect with the word. Today, with internet it’s easy. And concerning education I think that each company should have a percentage of their revenue or profit to invest in the education through scholarships -building schools, maybe through importing some high level teachers, professors to give some courses in their company. I believe young African generation are eager to learn and it could send a good and a strong signal for them that first we recognize them as future leaders and second we give them some new knowledge. As you know, knowledge is the key to success.
You travel extensively around Africa and do business in many countries in the Continent. What would you suggest are the key opportunities that you see in the next five years?
Concerning Africa, the opportunities I see in the next five years are Energy, Infrastructure, Tourism, telecommunications and Agro business .To achieve this target and this investment, I think there’s a need for political stability, attractive regulations and some incentive in tax because of course investors require a business friendly environment, and at the end they are looking for profit.