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The IGAD Business Forum was held last weekend in Djibouti where Chamber of Commerce representatives from each IGAD countries were in attendance. The importance of regional integration and the way forward, as well as the establishment of an arbitration center in Djibouti were the major discussion points. Youssouf Moussa Dawaleh, President of Djibouti’s Chamber of Commerce and organizer of the forum spoke to Capital about the outcome of the Forum as well as the status of the arbitration center.
Capital: Tell us about the IGAD Business Forum that was held this week. What were the discussion points and what was the outcome?
Youssouf Moussa Dawaleh:
We held this meeting to discuss the economic integration of the region and we discussed and approved the establishment of the Arbitration Center that we will launch in Djibouti’s Chamber of Commerce.
The IGAD Business Forum is also a platform where we can talk about issues of the region as well as solutions. When we talk about IGAD, we talk about poverty, war and conflict. But today, we talk about business, development and hope.
Capital: What concrete benefit have you gotten from the meeting?
Dawaleh:
The concrete thing we got was on how we can share the development advantages each country has. For example, if I want to invest in Kenya, I know what to invest on. If Kenyans wants to invest in Djibouti, now they know what to invest on.
The chambers that participated as well as other delegations can now go to their respective countries and inform the private sector about the opportunities in the IGAD region.
Capital: Tell us about the Memorandum of Understandings that were signed?
Dawaleh:
The MoU that was signed with each chamber was a standard agreement on how we can work together and on the same projects. For example, I signed an agreement with the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce to work on a project where the French Development Agency is financing. The project involves providing training on how to integrate the two business communities and how to make the private sector sustainable. The private sector in Djibouti is different from the private sector in Ethiopia. We are also sharing experiences, talking about the advantages and disadvantages. We want to work together to create the best workable environment between the two private sectors.
Capital: What about regarding the arbitration center to be set up in Djibouti, what is the progress?
Dawaleh:
Everybody has agreed that the center will be established in Djibouti. Now we can start to mobilize the finances to set up the center which will be for the IGAD countries. If that is successful, it will expand to the COMESA.
Capital: There is already a significant amount of investment flowing to the region.  Would the center really add anything more?
Dawaleh:
Many international investors are saying they need an arbitration center that meets all the international standards, in case there are problems that need resolving. And we do need an arbitration center that can accommodate the needs of these investors so we can be able to increase investment in the region.
Capital: What kind of financing will the center receive?
Dawaleh:
The European Union Ambassador has said that he is ready to put on the table whatever finance the center will need. The World Bank has also stated it is ready to provide finance and USAID will also be another funding partner, among others.