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Speech by Johan Forssell

Speech by Johan Forssell on Africa Day


Speech by Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Johan Forssell on the occasion of Africa Day. Egyptian Embassy, Stockholm, 28 May.

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Excellencies, distinguished guests, dear friends and partners, 

It is a great pleasure to be here today, celebrating Africa Day together with you. I thank Ambassador Sele and all African Heads of Mission in Stockholm for extending this invitation to me. And thank you to Ambassador Adel for kindly hosting us all. 

Our relations with African countries are something that I, and the entire Swedish Government, attach great importance to. Since coming into office, I have had the privilege of travelling to the African continent on several occasions. From Monrovia in the west, to Nairobi in the east. From Cairo in the north, to Lusaka in the south. I am equally happy that I have had the honour of receiving African colleagues in Stockholm for an exchange of views on issues of mutual interest. 

During my trips to Africa, I have experienced the longstanding friendship between Sweden and Africa. From world-leading Swedish companies working together with African partners to accomplish the green transition. 

To our long-term development cooperation, supporting small business and women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.  

The recent Nordic-African Foreign Ministers Meeting in Copenhagen also confirmed our strong partnership and mutual will to deepen relations: on sustainable development and trade, on peace and security, on issues of global governance. 

As you know, the African Union has chosen education as its theme for this year. And for good reason, since education is a cornerstone of human development and a catalyst for progress and economic development. 

Access to quality education creates a foundation for a life in freedom and dignity. 

A few weeks ago, I visited Zambia and experienced first-hand how Swedish support to clinics providing sexual and reproductive health and rights services strengthen young girls and women. This is a tangible contribution to advancing freedom and gender equality.    

Education is an area that further illustrates the strong and broad ties between Sweden and Africa. Sweden has long been, and still is, a central partner in eradicating illiteracy on the African continent. 

Today, Swedish universities have partnerships with education institutions in more than 40 African countries – learning from each other and jointly addressing common challenges through innovative research. 

Only two weeks ago, researchers, teachers and students from 40 universities across Sweden and South Africa convened in Malmö and Lund for a joint research and innovation week. These people-to-people ties continue to evolve, with almost 1 700 students from African countries studying in Sweden in the last academic year. The alumni of Swedish universities include former president of Zambia Rupiah Banda and the current vice-president of Tanzania, Philip Mpango. 

Let me also mention the gynecologist and Noble Prize laureate Denis Mukwege who worked for 20 years at Panzi Hospital in DRC, which was built thanks to money from Swedish organisations like PMU, LM International, and Sida. 

It is estimated that by 2030, about 230 million jobs in Africa will require digital skills. It is therefore fitting that a sub-heading of this year’s AU theme is ‘Educate and skill Africa for the 21st Century’, providing hope for Africa’s young, growing population. Sweden can be your partner of choice in these efforts. 

My government also see great opportunities for making better use of the synergies between development cooperation and trade. Through our development cooperation, we can support capacity-building for institutions to create favourable conditions for countries in Africa to participate in international trade and contribute to sustainable development. 

One example is the Trade Academy Policy programme run by the Swedish National Board of Trade. This important programme strengthens capacity among civil servants at trade policy institutions in participating countries. This year’s participants came from Kenya, Somalia, Zambia and Rwanda.

Knowledge transfer is also provided by Swedish companies across Africa. Swedish companies are highly innovative and offer state-of-the-art solutions, not least for the global green transition. In Côte d’Ivoire, Swedish Scania has provided 450 biofuel buses in the city of Abidjan. 

Not only did this create new jobs in Sweden and Côte d’Ivoire, it also contributed to improving public transportation and sustainable mobility. Scania also supplied extensive training to local bus drivers and technicians.

This is one more example of the importance of mobilising the business sector to achieve a more green and sustainable transition.   

In Egypt, several Swedish companies have had a presence for a long time: Ericsson for over 125 years! To celebrate our longstanding ties, and to further deepen our trade relations, I had the privilege of inaugurating the Egyptian-Swedish Business Forum last year here in Stockholm, together with my colleague, the Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry, Ahmed Samir.

Another example can be found in Rwanda, and the House Kigali established by the Swedish foundation Norrsken. Today the biggest hub for entrepreneurship in Africa, House Kigali brings together investors and talent seeking to find solutions to global challenges. 

In addition to this, Sweden is a strong supporter of the African Continental Free Trade Area. By providing extensive technical assistance, we are contributing to expanding intra-African trade and inclusive economic growth. 

These are just a few examples, and a clear testament to our commitment to Africa.  

Friends, a great deal has been achieved and we have many things to celebrate here today. 

I look forward to continuing our dialogue on how, together, we can strengthen the relations between Sweden and African countries. 

Thank you.