President François Hollande called on French business leaders Wednesday to double their trade with Africa, saying doing so would create some 200,000 jobs in France. Hollande's comments came ahead of a summit with African leaders in Paris.
President François Hollande on Wednesday called on the nation's business leaders to double their trade with Africa, saying that doing so could create some 200,000 jobs in France over the next five years.
"That is our objective: France must double its trade with Africa," Hollande told a major conference of French and African business leaders in Paris.
The French president, who has come under fire over the persistent unemployment in his country, also announced the creation of a Franco-African growth foundation by next year that would aim to foster business talent.
Hollande's comments came ahead of a summit with 40 African leaders in the French capital on Friday and Saturday.
Although the value of France's business links with Africa have steadily increased since its former colonies won independence in the 1960s, it has seen its share of the African market decline as China and other emerging economies have increased investment on the continent.
France could ‘miss the boat’
Nigeria's Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala warned France that it was in danger of "missing the boat" in Africa.
"This is the time for the French private sector to begin to get in,” she said. “Those who are not already in, you must start now. Because my word to you is, if you miss the boat now, if you are not in Africa now – let me say it again, if you are not in Africa now – you are missing the opportunity of a lifetime."
She said that the past decade of growth meant Africa no longer had to rely on former colonial powers as trade and investment partners.
"It is true that Africa has many suitors now,” she said. “And it is true that our traditional partners like France, whom we will not forget, may have to work a little harder to persuade us to work with them on investments on the continent."
Okonjo-Iweala, formerly a managing director at the World Bank, encouraged French companies to take an interest in the privatisation of the energy and transport sectors now under way in her country and across Africa.
"We need private equity in our infrastructure, we need private capital," she told the delegates.
France losing market share
Economic growth across Africa has exceeded 5 percent per year for the last 10 years and the expansion has been accompanied by growing economic links between the continent and emerging powerhouses like China, India and Brazil.
France, in contrast, has lost market share across the region.
Nevertheless, France still wields significant influence and is a major player in African security issues. Its intervention in Mali earlier this year and an ongoing expansion of operations in the Central African Republic are but two recent examples.
But French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said France needed to develop a new, mutually beneficial economic relationship with Africa.
"We have to speak the language of truth: African growth pulls us along, its dynamism supports us and its vitality is stimulating for us," he said. "We need Africa."
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2013-12-04