Jakarta. Indonesia will host the inaugural Indonesia-Africa Forum in April next year, which the government hopes will boost economic partnerships between Indonesia and countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Speaking at the "PR and Diplomacy Indonesia in Africa" seminar in Jakarta on Tuesday (03/10), Djauhari Oratmangun, a special advisor on strategic issues to the minister of foreign affairs, touched on Africa's potential for Indonesian exports.
"One of our foreign policy priorities is Africa – we call it our potential market [...] One of the main issues we face in the region is our lack of attention to the opportunities they offer," Djauhari said.
Djauhari added that Indonesian consumer goods, palm oil, garments and motorized vehicles are among several products that could be in demand in markets in sub-Saharan Africa.
The region includes 46 countries with a total gross domestic product of $1,49 trillion, according to World Bank data compiled in 2016.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said more than 20 Indonesian companies, including textile producer Indorama and pharmaceutical company Kalbe Farma, have already invested in Africa.
Indomie instant noodles for example, are widely popular in Nigeria. The manufacturer, Indofood Sukses Makmur, has six plants in Africa, including in Egypt, Sudan and Kenya.
Trade between Indonesia and sub-Saharan Africa was valued at $7.6 billion last year.
Despite the presence of Indonesian businesses in Africa, which can be traced back to the 1980s, Djauhari believes the country's economic presence on the continent is not optimal yet.
"Africa is the continent of the future, with high economic growth, abundant labor and strong purchasing power," Djauhari said.
He said Indonesia is interested in further penetrating the African market in the hope to bring economic, social and cultural benefits to both Indonesian and African people.
The African region maintained its position as the world's second-fastest growing economy, with 3.5 percent growth last year. The International Monetary Fund expects this growth to reach 4.3 percent by 2020.
Furthermore, Africa's younger generation – those below the age of 25 – makes up 62 percent of the total population. The purchasing power of the middle class is also high, with around 330 million people in this category.
Indonesia is currently involved in several discussions to increase its partnerships with Africa, including through financing schemes by Indonesia Eximbank via the National Interest Account and negotiations on a preferential trade agreement.
The Indonesia-Africa Forum, which take place in Bali on April 10-11, seeks to provide space for dialogue between African and Indonesian businesses with several agreements expected to be signed.
The forum will also facilitate business matchmaking, encourage technical cooperation and explore possibilities for triangular cooperation, among others.
"We are on our way to becoming one of the world's largest economies, maybe the sixth-largest by 2030. To become and maintain this role, we must be active in seeking opportunities," Djauhari said.
Daniel Tumpal Simanjuntak, director for Africa at the Foreign Ministry, said Indonesia will also announce several programs during the April forum focusing on reaching out to Africa's younger generation.
The Foreign Ministry also launched the social-media hashtags #IndonesiaAfrica and #IAFBali2018 on Tuesday as part of efforts to broaden understanding and increase interest in the continent.
Tumpal encouraged Indonesian startups during the event to identify opportunities for expansion in Africa, and said the ministry stands ready to help facilitate and locate possible financing mechanisms.
Tunggul Pannindriya, a senior lecturer in communication and media at the London School of Public Relations in Jakarta, said for Indonesia's economic diplomacy to truly work, traditional mindsets concerning the African continent must change.
"We must change existing mindsets on Africa, which are full of perceptions of poverty, hunger, illness and more," Tunggul said. He added that this must be done at all levels, including in government and institutions of higher education.