As an Ambassador's son, I was lucky enough to grow up in Brussels and my early years were spent between Bonn, Paris and Brussels, where my father opened the Embassy of Mauritania in 1972. A second stay in 1985 firmly rooted me in Belgium.
When I turned 18, I chose to become a Belgian, although I would have been French by blood or German by soil. As a result of my life in the cosmopolitan, multicultural cities of Europe, I picked up a career trading between north and south, Belgium and Zaire. Following the civil war in this country in 1996 and having suspended my operations for a while, I returned to my country of origin. I started in Mauritania, established my local network and took advantage of family ties. I started working, no longer as a purchaser or shipper but as a receiving agent and sales representative, acting as a buffer between the country's organisations and the West. I was helped by my understanding of these two worlds, these different cultures, I had become a junction point, but also a fuse, a protection.
It is here, in Mauritania, that I have fully felt the benefits of having one foot in a foreign country, of being internationally aware and the opportunities that foreign markets have to offer those that discover them. I recognise the advantages that I have enjoyed locally compared with a foreigner, but conversely being of foreign origin in Belgium also has its disadvantages.
I urge companies and foreign individuals, who want and need to focus on international expansion, not only to take advantage of AWEX's assistance of course, but also to use all their resources to explore, gain information and present yourself in the country, provide a contact on the prospective market, monitor local calls for tenders, etc. You need proximity to enter these markets and pass on information, then you need a presence, it is all just a matter of discussions and relationships, the interest is still there, if the approach lacks something, you have to make up for this in order to establish the link that you seek.
My bi-nationality is certainly a benefit when communicating and establishing trade between Belgium and Mauritania, but it does not replace the commitment and continued efforts that a company has to make to integrate itself into a market which works differently from its own. Efforts that are vital if it is to succeed.
Personally, I am proud of being bi-national, of promoting trade between my two countries and wearing their colours, my motto:
‘In god we trust! Long live the King!'
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