The Canary Islands as a bridge of commercial connection between Europe and Africa
The Canary Islands is the only autonomous community that has a notable advantage over others, and that is that, due to its geographical position and uniqueness, it is considered by the European Union as an outermost region. This designation brings with it the opportunity to take advantage of all the benefits offered so that Spanish and even European companies can do business with Africa through the archipelago.
For this reason, Internationalisation Week 2022 has dedicated a special mention to this Spanish island region in a round table discussion entitled "The Canary Islands, the connecting bridge for business with Africa". Moderated by Alfredo Monet, Secretary General of the Círculo de Empresarios, these joint presentations began with the aim of making the most of IMPULSO AFRICA, one of the core contents of the IMEX Fair.
The first to take the floor was the Director General for African Economic Affairs of the Government of the Canary Islands, Nasara Cabrera, who made special mention of the importance of Africa for the Islands and for Spain, taking into account the "commercial surplus where this importance is materialised" and the fact that there are exclusive centres for African issues. From the government's point of view, Cabrera emphasised the promotion of the private sector and chambers of commerce through "economic diplomacy, knowledge transfer, innovation and strategic information".
However, one of the most important elements at the institutional level that the Canary Islands has to materialise this relationship between the two continents is the establishment of Casa África in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, a fact that was not overlooked at the round table, especially with the intervention of its director general, José Segura. For him, the Canary Islands have a duty to Spain and Europe as an outermost region: to be the gateway to Africa. That is why, according to Segura, it is necessary to demand this position because in the future "the African continent is going to become the great energy exporter of the European continent".
For his part, the president of the Canary Islands Confederation of Businessmen, Agustín Manrique de Lara, made a similar mention of the important role of the Canary Islands at both national and European level. However, according to the speaker, more investment, more safeguards, more social development, a market economy, and the promotion of training and talent are needed to "boost Ibero-African entrepreneurs".
The Tenerife Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Services and Navigation also took part in this round table with the intervention of its vice-president, Arturo Escuder, who paradoxically recalled that, despite being only a few kilometres away, Spanish companies decide to go to America. However, many of them have realised that African countries are full of opportunities and have decided to invest in them, which is why this Chamber of Commerce has become, according to Escuder, an institution of national and international reference, like others such as the UN or the World Bank. Escuder also recalled the hard work that the Canary Islands has done in dealing with aspects such as migration.
Finally, the last speaker at this round table on the Canary Islands was the Secretary General of the Official Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Navigation of Gran Canaria, Luis Padrón. He emphasised the current situation in Africa in order to be able to invest in it: "Legal security for African markets is already complete and commercial action is guaranteed", said Padrón. He also alluded to the need to create links and to get to know other chambers of commerce in Africa, to promote certain facilities for SMEs, such as the creation of logistics destination warehouses, as well as to take advantage of facilities already in place, such as taxation. "The Canary Islands have the best taxation in Europe, a 4% tax rate as an outermost region," Padrón defended.
All in all, what this analysis of the Canary Islands as a bridge to Africa has shown is that the archipelago has a geographical proximity and unique characteristics to establish more links between two continents. And with these premises, Alfredo Bonet concluded the particular impetus from the IMEX Fair in Madrid to connect Spain and Africa.