Interview with Agostino Siccardi, Italian entrepreneur, recently returned from Mogadishu. QUI versione italiana
Agostino Siccardi is an “old” Italian Engineer and Entrepreneur who, since 2010, due to the deep crisis that hit Italy, has started working in African countries. He has great experience and knows the places in which he travels to follow his business, which began in Libya, and ended immediately due to the known events that interested and interested the country, then continued in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda and Somalia.
He has learned over the years that to create any contact, he must rely mainly on himself; only recently Italian politics seems to have noticed the existence of the Horn of Africa, even if this region is part of our recent history in various ways. It is necessary to visit Asmara to understand how our presence was in any case important: the Asmara-Massaua railway was built by the Italians and finished in 1905 and still in operation today: a true technological jewel of the past, which allows passing from the sea to 2400 slm of Asmara.
“The role of our Embassies – he says bitterly – should facilitate the business of our companies, creating contacts and conditions so that this can develop. Instead most of the contacts in these years I have always created them myself, knocking on doors: and as an Italian, often with a bottle of good wine, a piece of Parmesan or a bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, I had unexpected results. Either you put yourself on the line and act with all your strength or you conclude little: certainly it takes your time; we need to understand the mentality of the host countries to achieve good results. Today, if you want to be successful, you have to sit at the table and negotiate on an equal footing with the African customer: the time of colonization is over: let us keep in mind that Africa is not just emigration, as we want to believe.
Africa is rich in entrepreneurs who have studied abroad, who speak perfect English, who know what they want; however, it is also the country where the conception of time is different: in Africa time passes slowly; the human relationship is fundamental, because whoever is in front of you must first trust and then open the doors to you ”.
And this is how Agostino created his last contact that allowed him to arrive in Mogadishu, to assess the local situation and the opportunities for his business. An idea flashed in recent months, perceiving that something was changing in the country.
In Liguria he has been a partner and director for many years of a civil and industrial steel carpentry company, Metal Job Srl, which is working in Ethiopia, where “the market is very active and where the Chinese presence is very strong, even if recently the current Prime Minister, who has a very enlightened vision on the future of the country, is looking in Italy for a partner that allows the country to grow in terms of technology and experience “.
In Somalia the situation is totally different: here fearless entrepreneurs are looking for the business with a good deal of “unconsciousness”. You can undoubtedly make very interesting gains, thanks to what is still a war economy, where anything has a very high value, but – Agostino would like to point out – the gains are commensurate with the risks”.
Infact for the Italian entrepreneur this time he will be only a hit and run. “In Mogadishu: now is the right time, before the rumor spreads. Somalia is not the new El Dorado: there is a huge job to do, but it is still dangerous “.
In the former Italian colonial, as in the whole of the Horn of Africa, he says that “they want a greater Italian presence: and not only because they like our way of living, dressing and eating”, but because they consider us “brothers”; our presence as colonizers did not leave acredini, but good memories: for example, walking through Asmara, it is not unusual for some elderly to stop and speak to you in Italian with a smile.
But Agostino was struck by the current lifestyle he experienced first-hand in Mogadishu: militiamen, checkpoints, armored cars, bunkers and military everywhere; the houses are almost completely destroyed; yet people live as if nothing is around like they are; optimism pervades and infects everyone, even if too many armed people go around the streets to ensure security: Mogadishu – he reiterates – reminds me of those films set in European cities at the end of World War II “.
“It is an unnatural situation; – he comments – I slept in a private house, with armed security inside. The situation is still unstable, even if the Government with the help of the International Community, is doing everything possible to give a future to this tortured country “.
“In Mogadishu – he continues to tell – you do not move freely. A European could be a bargaining chip … I could only move with an armored car and an armed escort. The security between car and contractor costs about $ 800 a day ”.
In Somalia the Turkys people are currently very active: the port and the airport have been rebuilt and are now managed by them; Qatar is also very active in the country, with funding to support rapid reconstruction: in the country, talking to people, one senses a deep desire to return to normality.
The Africa Horn has an enormous potential in terms of business and has a very strategic position, being at the entrance of the Red Sea, where all exports from Far East countries to European countries transit. For too long, for example, Somalian piracy has disturbed these trades. For the business not only money is needed for investments, first there is need for stability so that they can proliferate.
Entrepreneurs are also needed to understand the places, the world, religions and wars. We need men like Agostino Siccardi, looking for job opportunities. But that should not be just those “to show up and sell at international fairs. You have to invest in these countries, where long-term economic returns can be important. Our nation should create the conditions for joint ventures with local entrepreneurs, supporting entrepreneurs and companies that want to invest “.
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