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H.E. Raed Khoury Speech at the LDE Africa Conference Johannesburg Feb. 2-3, 2017
06 Feb, 2017

H.E. Raed Khoury Speech at the LDE Africa Conference
 Johannesburg Feb. 2-3, 2017
Buy Lebanese and Consume Lebanese
The Lebanese Service Industry and The Opportunities in Investing in Local Industries

Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Coming on the plane from Lebanon, I could not stop thinking about our grandfathers who immigrated to far continents like Africa and the America in search for a better life and better opportunities.
What a challenge they undertook when they decided to face the unknown within cultures totally new to them. Yet they were able to create tremendous opportunities and successes becoming leaders in their respective societies.
This what being “Lebanese” or “Libanity”, as his H.E. Gebran Bassil calls it, is all about: entrepreneurial spirit with an ability to face challenges, create successes and manage risks.
This entrepreneurial spirit has also translated in many achievements in different sectors in Lebanon: services including tourism, hoteliers and restaurants, fashion, jewelry, financial sector and more recently knowledge economy.
It is only natural to join forces between the successful businesses locally and the powerful Diaspora especially in Africa to create mutual benefits and also serve the respective economies of the receiving countries.
In this way we can put the title of our session today “Buy Lebanese and Consume Lebanese” into action.
Maximizing these synergies and achieving its potential will be one of the objectives of the Lebanese ministry of economy and trade.
The Lebanese economic outlook has been dominated since 2011 by the protracted conflict in Syria and the deteriorating oil prices affecting the expatriates remittances and hence the balance of payment.
In particular, the Lebanese economy and society withstood the hosting of an unprecedented number of displaced Syrians, whose number exceeded 1.5 Million people, accounting for more than 40% of the Lebanese population.
This unexpected situation has resulted in a weakening in the social, economic and security situation allowing for a downgrade in economic growth to 1% and an unprecedented increase in unemployment rates.
Moreover, Lebanon’s traditional growth drivers – tourism, real estate and construction - have all been affected by the spillovers of the crisis.
Yet the Lebanese economy has shown a high level of resilience and endurance.
As such, our meeting today comes at a very critical time for Lebanon. We have positive political drivers that we should take advantage of: a new long awaited president with a clear vision and program, a new government and upcoming parliamentary elections. Moreover the new government has enacted during its first meeting long awaited laws to launch the exploration process for oil and gas. It is a momentum that we should build upon for the future of our country and the upcoming generations.
We, as a political party, have come up with an economic outline containing short term measures as well as a long term economic plan. We intend to have an open discussion with all other major political parties in order to be able to design a common macro economic paper valid for execution. We hope this would set the tone for the remainder of the presidential term.
Personally, I am of the school of thought that believes that government contribution to economic activity should be minimal and that the private sector should take over many of the public institutions due to its proven track record of higher productivity and efficiency. Hence privatization, in an orderly manner, is inevitable. This is another opportunity for the Lebanese to invest and benefit from their economy.
As such, Lebanon represents today a unique investment potential in several areas most notably oil and gas, services, communication, infrastructure and knowledge economy.
Therefore, we count on our expatriates and on their investment abilities and we stress on the need to develop economic and trade relations between Lebanon and African countries as we believe that great opportunities in several areas remain unexploited.
Lebanon is extensively recognized for its strategic geographical position in the MENA region and therefore provides businesses with easy access to regional and global markets, especially Africa.
Given its high skilled labor force and widely dispersed, abundant and well educated Diaspora, the Lebanese can play a strong networking role by acting as a main intermediary with different countries and especially with the African business community. Being a role model to many surrounding countries, Lebanon is a pilot market where the success of a product would definitely insure widespread success in the region. 
As such, we at the Ministry of Economy and Trade are working on a medium-term economic vision that highlights the importance of Lebanon’s Diaspora and the role it can play in increasing Lebanese exports, attracting investments and opening up to new markets.
Moreover, we stress on the need to provide these expatriates with incentives encouraging them to reap the benefits offered by Lebanon’s competitive advantages especially in the Services industry given that our country is service-oriented and relies greatly on the services industry.
Lebanon’s strategic location coupled with its strong financial sector and the availability of entrepreneurial opportunities make the country an influential trade hub. Despite this fact, trade between Africa and Lebanon has yet to reach its full potential.
The ministry of economy and trade will take every possible action to encourage investments in sectors where the Lebanese have proven success in many parts of the world including tourism, financial services, jewelry, fashion, food industries, knowledge economy etc.
Our goals will only be achieved with perseverance and we heavily rely on the dynamism of our private sector and we do believe, based on evidence, in its vital role in business creation and development.
Once again, it is a pleasure to be here today at the LDE Africa conference and I hope that by the end of the forum we would be able to set out concrete recommendations for future steps.
Lebanon attaches great importance to this event, and we hope that we can continue to reinforce the strong cooperation between our countries in the future.
Finally, allow me to thank the organizers of this event, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Basil for believing in the Diaspora energy, the Embassy of Lebanon in South Africa for all their efforts, The South African Government and the Lebanese businessmen community for their active participation and interest.