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“We need to have a very targeted approach in Africa”

Jessen Coolen, Economic Research Lead, MCB
Jessen Coolen, Economic Research Lead, MCB

MCB Group hosted the second edition of its Trade Week this month. The event aimed at providing trade insights, business intelligence, and bespoke trade solutions to participants. The theme, “Enabling African Trade Growth with a Sustainability Lens,” reflected MCB’s commitment to driving meaningful change in the African trade landscape as a key trade partner.


Central to the Trade Week was a roundtable discussion that epitomised MCB’s pivotal role in steering Mauritius towards a more engaged African strategy, highlighting the nation’s dedication to acting as a propellant for growth and cooperation throughout the continent. 


The roundtable highlighted the imperative for nuanced trade and investment strategies across Africa’s diverse landscape, which comprises 54 countries with distinct narratives and economic conditions. The deliberations underscored the necessity for bespoke strategies and emphasised the critical role of collaborative efforts between banks, the private sector, and government entities in crafting initiatives tailored to the continent’s varied needs.


In a Q&A session with BIZWEEK, Jessen Coolen, Economic Research Lead, MCB, shared the following insights on the roundtable session: 


What are the main highlights from the session you had with all the stakeholders?

One of the key points was the need for a collaborative approach to unlock the potential for increased trade in Africa, and the role Mauritius can play in this context. Given the diversity across the continent, with 54 countries each with their own unique stories, it became clear that we need a very targeted approach. This is where collaboration between banks, the private sector and the public sector is crucial. 


How does the MCB Trade Week fit into the broader African strategy?

MCB, as Mauritius’ leading bank, wanted to bring all stakeholders together to discuss collective strategies. The Africa Trade Week underscores the significance of Africa to our strategy, as well as to the strategy of Mauritius as a nation. The event facilitated meaningful discussions and helped identify key areas where we can focus our efforts to promote trade and collaboration in Africa.


Training and capacity building are central to understanding the dynamics of doing business in Africa, from risks and challenges to opportunities.


MCB’s profits largely come from abroad, with a focus on the region and Africa. How does the Trade Week help you strengthen your presence in Africa? 

It’s true that a significant portion of our revenue comes from abroad, especially Africa. However, this doesn’t mean we neglect the Mauritian market; it’s still a priority. Our approach in Africa has always been selective, focusing on niche areas where we have developed expertise. Our aim is to continue this approach, targeting specific regions and segments where we have a track record of success.


Considering MCB’s ambition to further expand into Africa, what role does training play, and how does the Trade Week support this?

Training is fundamental to our approach. Today’s session, for instance, included training with university students, highlighting the need for capacity building, not just within MCB, but also among our clients and the future leaders of the country. Training and capacity building are essential to understanding the complexities of doing business in Africa, including the risks and challenges, but also the vast opportunities.

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