TBY talks to Pedro Pires, Former President of Cape Verde, on the country's economic progress, comparisons with Dubai, and the promise of Africa.

Can you tell us more about the search for new investors for Cape Verde's $300 million airport refurbishment?

In Cape Verde, there are four airports, two of which are for tourism. The question is how to better utilize one of our international airports to connect Africa, Europe, and America. We're talking about the premier airport in the country and the largest. We want to transform the airport into a large center of aviation; a hub. It's a project for which we are in the process of finding investors.

Why is Cape Verde an attractive destination for tourists?

At the moment, tourism is the principal economic activity of the country. First of all, the country is composed of islands located 500 kilometers from Senegal. We have beautiful beaches and an agreeable climate for tourists who visit at all times of the year. Therefore, it's the climate, the nature, the beaches, and the diversity of the islands that are very interesting for tourists. Secondly, we are a very secure country for investors. We have created guarantees for foreign investors and fostered a safe climate. Everything is guaranteed for investors who want to do business here. From a political point of view, we are stable and secure. Our country and climate are good for your health, and we offer a unique experience for our tourists. Cape Verde has been independent for 38 years. We also have a strong education system for students. We have acquired very important social developments and made advancements in education. Around 85%-100% of our children are enrolled in school. The level of our education, the investment guarantees, and the business climate, as well as the favorable ambiance for tourists are all benefits that our country offers.

“Cape Verde, like Dubai, is in a strategic position to contribute to development in our region."

How is Cape Verde different from other West African countries?

We are islands, we're an insulated territory, and we have a huge mix of cultures. People live in harmony and we are open to foreign visitors.

How many tourists visit each year?

Up to 500.000 people visit per year, but we will start within 10 to 15 years to progressively and slowly develop to a level that is sustainable. At the moment, there is huge interest in investing in the tourism industry.

What there other economic sectors in Cape Verde that are interesting at the moment?

The country is in the process of developing a number of plans to transform the port. The service sector is developing, as is the fishing industry. We also have a growing energy sector. The government is interested in developing renewable energy sources because the country has a lot of sun and a lot of wind. We have the conditions to develop new, green energy resources.

When will work on the airport refurbishment begin?

The investors are in the process of finding partners at the moment, and civil aviation and commercial activities will soon begin. Right now, we are presenting the project to investors and finding partners.

What can Cape Verde learn from Dubai as it develops into a regional hub?

Dubai offers an extraordinary experience. Here, I believe Cape Verdeans have a lot to learn. In my opinion, Cape Verde, like Dubai, is in a strategic position to contribute to development in our region. It's necessary to see what one can do, and if it is even possible. The country is growing well and it is in a good location. Therefore, the government makes good profits off of its strategic position in this zone. My opinion is that in the near future Africa will be stronger. So, it is crucial that the world sees Africa from another angle. The continent is in the process of leaving many difficulties behind. There has been much progress, and there are many possibilities. The continent holds great significance to the world. It is important to have a good perspective in the coming years. We, from the African countries, are embracing progress.

© The Business Year - April 2013