By Emma Ujah, in Paris
Paris — France has set aside 240 billion Euros for investment in Nigeria and other African countries in a move aimed at re-invigorating the European country’s presence on the continent, the French President, Mr. Francois Holland, has announced.
Speaking at the second French-African Economic Forum in Paris, weekend, he said the initiative was already a success and marked the beginning of a rejuvenated partnership between his country and the African region.
He said: “France is ready to bring development and investment to Africa. In Africa, there is a convergence of interests between French investors and Africans. We will and must fund Africa better in its projects development. The main risks are not in Africa and we must look at Africa like we do for other regions.”
The president told the large gathering of over 500 French and African investors that a large portion of the resources would be channelled into the provision of infrastructure, especially electricity power generation and distribution.
His words: “Access of Africa is key to the future of the world and we are here to form a forum community of like minds. Africa has a beautiful future and France has a lot of products that would benefit both France and the African region.
“Africa is our future, therefore, we must work out a strategic growth framework in which Africa has the capacity to ensure its own development because the region is full of resources that are yet to be developed.”
According to the President,the French Export-Import Bank has been established and would become operational from next month as part the strategy to boost economic activities of French companies in the region.
Nigeria as investment destination—Sapin
Earlier, the French Minister of Finance, Mr. Michael Sapin, said Nigeria would be major beneficiary of his country’s new push for greater investment in Africa, saying: “If you are not in Nigeria, you are not in Africa.”
Sapin said with a huge market and investment potentials, “no serious investor can ignore Nigeria, given the large population, highly skilled human capital and massive untapped natural resources.”
He added that already, a contact group had been formed to ensure that French investors took the front roll of business activities in Nigeria and other countries of the African region.
According to Sapin, “perception about Africa is changing rapidly, especially after over a decade of steady impressive economic growth, even when most regions of the world were experiencing retarded growth or even recession.
“French investors have to know this, that French needs Africa. With a budding young population who are highly skilled and entrepreneurial, we must give impetus to this needed collaboration between Africa and France.”
Okonjo-Iweala suggests innovative financing
In her presentation, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, suggested what she described as “innovative financing, in the quest to mobilise more public funds on the African continent.
According to her, “it is necessary to try innovative financing because of the gap between the current public funds and the development needs of African nations.”
She urged development partners to put more funds into tax administration, noting that $1 funding of tax administration could generate as much as $30 in tax.
The minister added that the strategy of Public Private Partnership, PPP, should be developed across the continent, given the reality that public funds could not meet development needs.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala also called for innovating the remittances of the Africans in the Diaspora by creating instruments to enable Africans outside the region to play greater roles in the development efforts of their home countries.