Milan - Statistics show that from 2007 to 2010 trade between the African ports on the Mediterranean coast and Italy has seen a boost of 15.6%. According to Piero Lazzeri, President of Fedespedi, this figure could very well be repeated or even increase in the years to come, if only the entire area of Maghreb manages to establish a sound political stability.
President Lazzeri, isn’t this sort of a delusion? For quite some time, there were many who claimed that those markets were likely to demonstrate a fast and significant growth in a short period of time. However, we’re still here, talking about what could happen in the future.
“When discussing trade in those areas, we must always take into account what has actually happened there during these last few years. There have been many changes on a social and political level that have not yet been absorbed. I personally feel that countries like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and even Egypt are the natural markets for our country’s ports, not only due to their geographical proximity, with only a few hundred kilometers standing between us, but also because in those areas we do not have to cope with competitors from Northern Europe, except maybe the ones from France. At the same time, we as operators shall be expecting something more from Libya, also because historically Italy has always had a closer relationship with Tripoli and many local companies were hoping for a rise in business during the reconstruction phase, following Gaddafi’s fall”.
And what about the rest?
“Italian industries active in the maritime sector have strong business relationships with Tunisian, Moroccan, and Algerian ports. In these cases marine traffic has been rising and this is confirmed by statistics recorded in 2013 which enable us to remain cautiously optimistic”.
South and West Africa. Those areas belong to the same continent and show a considerable potential for growth in terms of maritime transport. What sort of differences do you see there, if any?
“The countries of West Africa are rich in raw materials, Nigeria for example, and consequently maritime transport in the entire region, at least in theory, could demonstrate a considerable growth in comparison with the actual volume of trade. But this area is going through all sorts of problems and to be honest I don’t know whether it’s worth working towards such goals. On the other hand, the case of South Africa is different because even though this country has considerable transport interests, a portion of which do indeed involve Italy, it’s a territory more connected to the German and Dutch business realm”.
Most people take for granted that the new reference markets for Italy will certainly be the ones in North Africa.
“We need to think of growth potential. We should only think of the population. We are talking about countries of a decidedly low median age, a large quantity of raw materials and they are areas that have never actually seen proper economic growth. Moreover, there are several companies that have decided to open production sites in those areas, mainly because of the costs, which are considerably lower than Europe. We already have, at the moment, a great number of products ranging from manufacturing to food industry goods, that are imported rather than exported”.