Ambition Africa 2019 - "Africa is Now"



Read Philippe Heim's Tribune



Speaking at the opening conference "Africa is Now" with other high-level panelists during the first day #AmbitionAfrica 2019 (30-31 October) in Paris, Philippe Heim, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, wrote a forum to explain the Group's commitment in Africa.

"Africa's demographic and economic diversity is leading this continent towards a unique emergence model with a multitude of opportunities that represent challenges for those who want to take part in Africa's development!

Firstly, a very dynamic demographic trend boosting its growth. By 2050, Africa's population will have doubled, thus creating a need for 500 million new jobs. At the same time, we are seeing the emergence of a middle class that will lead to new consumption habits and capacities.

An amazing breeding ground of innovation

Access to financial services is also improving and changing, although almost 70% of the continent's population still do not have access to banking services. This is an amazing breeding ground of innovation for financial establishments that have to invent new payment, savings, credit and insurance solutions to accompany the financial inclusion trend.

Another opportunity is the continent's rapid urbanisation, because by 2050 Africa is expected to have 4 cities of over 15 million inhabitants and dozens with over 5 million. This continent, which already has substantial infrastructure requirements, will see its needs exacerbated by this urban polarisation; the funding required to meet this trend is estimated at some 1,900 billion dollars by 2030 and will necessitate new public-private partnerships and new investment structures.

Africa is seething with initiatives to shape its own future

The latest trend, and not an insignificant one, is the acceleration and convergence of innovations. A genuine laboratory of new 21st century technologies, Africa is seething with initiatives to shape its own future. Driven by its youth – half of the continent's inhabitants are under 30 –, Africa's inventiveness is impressive. Instead of reusing old recipes, it adapts them to its reality and problems.

Many economists agree that African countries will benefit from an unprecedented development model, skipping a number of stages that developed countries had to go through. The telephone is a perfect illustration of this. Without going through the landline phase, Africa has seen an impressive mobile phone boom: approximately 80% of the population now have mobile phones, and we are seeing the first 100% "Made in Africa" smartphones.

This type of pattern is also conceivable for the energy sector, with development directly via low-carbon sources of production with a lower capacity distributed via smart networks. Solar energy production can notably provide a massive contribution to African electrification whilst limiting the need to build an electrical distribution network linking every village.

Africa's destiny and France's destiny are closely connected

Personally, I firmly believe we all have a role to play: Africa's destiny and France's destiny are closely connected. It is our duty as banks, entrepreneurs and citizens to contribute, on our level, to the strengthening of Franco-African relations. France is one of Africa's leading trading partners, and 38,000 of its companies exported over 53 billion euros worth of goods and services in 2017. The volume of investments has increased sevenfold since 2002! But we can do better! Africa has seen exceptional exponential growth. Competition is now global, so Africa and France need to work together to write the next chapter, on an equal footing establishing dialogue where all sides can assert their interests in a responsible manner.

As a banker, Societe Generale has a dual role to play: we're here both to accompany today's Africa and to help build its future. Convinced that this help requires openness and partnerships, Societe Generale has thus decided to use its proximity, expertise and innovation dynamic to boost the African continent's prosperity. It has chosen to become even more engaged by including all stakeholders who are eager to provide a response to the specific conditions in which Africa's sustainable development is being conceived.

This is what led to the creation of our "Grow With Africa" programme that incorporates our main commitments in Africa: support the development of African SMEs; help finance the vital infrastructures required to provide energy, transport and mobility, water and waste management and contribute to the development of sustainable towns; develop innovative financing for the agricultural and energy sectors to ensure the broadest possible access, including by promoting renewable energy sources in off-grid areas; and, lastly, offer services that boost the development of local populations through financial inclusion.

A commitment of a century

As well as its unique positioning, the long history that the Societe Generale group shares with Africa is rooted in the financing of the real economy, and its loyalty to this continent is encouraging the Bank to look at the African continent's development in a responsible manner. This commitment has been reaffirmed in the Societe Generale group's strategic plan that makes its African activities a pillar of its growth, and which is also based on a CSR ambition of which "contributing to Africa's sustainable development" is a major component.

Societe Generale has been involved in this continent for over a century and currently has a presence in 19 African countries, with 4 million customers including 150,000 businesses, more than 1,000 branches and the energy and enthusiasm of 12,000 members of staff. Africa's development is one of the collective challenges we can and resolutely want to contribute to."

Tribune broadcast on AfricaPresse website