Forum Europe-Afrique: Marseille at the forefront of economic and cultural cooperation

Forum Europe-Afrique: Marseille at the forefront of economic and cultural cooperation
17 May 2023 / doing business in provence, Grow your business

Provence Promotion takes part in B2B meetings and awards

The second edition of the Forum Europe-Afrique conference, organized by La Tribune and La Tribune Afrique newspapers, took place in Marseille on May 15 and 16, 2023. After the opening night at the Museum of the Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean (Mucem), the conference took place at the Palais du Pharo in Marseille to strengthen economic, social, cultural, and political cooperation between Europe and Africa.

Provence Promotion, which has a long history of supporting Africa-based companies as they set up in Aix-Marseille, had a seat at the partners’ table to welcome potential investors. Three companies — two of which received support from Provence Promotion — also received awards in recognition of their investment in the Aix-Marseille territory. The awards were given through a collaboration with Provence Promotion, the Aix-Marseille Metropolis, the Top 20 business club, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Aix-Marseille-Provence, and the Africalink network.

As a gateway to both the African and European markets and linked by geographical and cultural similarities, Aix-Marseille has traditionally been a key location for economic relations between Africa and Europe. This position was enhanced in 2013 with the inauguration of the Museum of the Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean (Mucem), the first major museum dedicated to the Mediterranean and an important symbol of the shared history between Africa and Marseille.

In line with French government policies, the Aix-Marseille territory encourages partnerships between France, Africa, and Europe. Events such as this second edition of the Forum Europe-Afrique, organized under the aegis of President Emmanuel Macron, is an example of these initiatives.

Meetings with African decision-makers and entrepreneurs

Marseille is the headquarters for several networks designed to facilitate dialogue and business exchanges between Europe and Africa: Provence Africa Connect managed by the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis, the Africalink network managed by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Aix-Marseille-Provence, and the Anima Investment Network, which brings together business leaders, entrepreneurs, and political figures from both sides of the Mediterranean.

In Provence Promotion’s role as the economic development agency for Aix-Marseille-Provence, it is an important contributor to developing economic relations with Africa. The agency promotes access to the African market from the territory for international investors and also helps African start-ups go global via soft landing and business acceleration programs in Marseille with partners such as the Accélérateur M, Marseille Innovation, and Euroméditerranée.

This second edition of the Forum Europe-Afrique was an opportunity to establish new contacts and encourage further synergies between the European and African ecosystems. The objectives included accelerating joint projects and fostering co-innovation in sectors such as digital technology, health care, energy, and green industries.

Awards to showcase Africa’s opportunities and talents

In 2014, Tajima, the Japanese leader in high-tech industrial embroidery machines, transferred its European headquarters from Paris to La Ciotat outside of Marseille. With the help of Provence Promotion, Franck Raynal, the Director of Tajima Europe, convinced the management team in Japan that the move would be beneficial, and the company has never regretted the decision.

Since then, Tajima Europe has recorded strong growth, going from €2 million in annual revenues to €29 million in 2022 while also expanding from six to 20 employees. Among the arguments that motivated the company’s relocation to the Aix-Marseille area was the chance to have a central location between Europe and Africa with a large international port.

“With the Port of Marseille Fos, we have access to port facilities for the import-export of our machines. We have also established a long-term partnership in Tunisia with the company Star Africa. They are based in Tunis to serve the North African market, but they also have branches in Nigeria and Kenya to develop the broader African market, carry out installations, and provide after-sales service,” says Franck Raynal, whose leadership has helped the La Ciotat site become such a success.

While the Tajima Europe division has become the primary sourcing center for the European market with well-known customers such as Decathlon, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel, the company has also become involved in the Aix-Marseille area. It has been partnering with the Fonds de Dotation de la Maison Mode Méditerranée for five years to encourage creation and talent in the fashion world. Each year, Tajima Europe awards a prize to support designers from Mediterranean countries. Winners are able to create an embroidery prototype for their collections and are invited to visit Tajima’s largest showroom in Italy, where the most advanced machines are on display.

Air routes & economic attractiveness, a successful duo

Ethiopian Airlines, the largest airline in Africa, has also chosen the territory to develop its business by creating a direct route between Aix-Marseille and Ethiopia. In cooperation with the Marseille Provence Airport, in 2019, the airline giant opened a direct route to the Addis Ababa International Airport, which is the busiest hub on the African continent.

The company has opened an office in Marseille and offers three weekly flights, which generate new passenger and freight traffic and boost business relations. Jalene Regassa, the Manager of Sales, Marketing, and Operations in France, received an award at the Forum Europe-Afrique for this investment, which Provence Promotion monitored alongside the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis and the Marseille Provence Airport.

“Since we opened the route, we have tripled our numbers and now have annual traffic of over 30 000 passengers. During the Covid period, we were able to maintain the freight services that were necessary to supply the territory with goods. This route facilitates cooperation with Africa, and today our business is flourishing. We continue to promote Provence as a destination and to offer our logistics services, so we thank the territory for this award,” says Jalene Regassa.

Ethiopian Airlines’ growth has tripled over the past ten years. The airline has won several coveted awards, including the Skytrax award for Best Airline in Africa for five consecutive years.

Lastly, the chairman of the NGE construction company, Antoine Metzger, received an award for his company’s business activities in Africa. The company has made broad investments in locations such as Senegal, the Ivory Coast, and Morocco, the latter being the company’s second-largest subsidiary with 1300 employees.