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Published On: Sun, Jul 8th, 2018

President Macron’s message to Africa

President Emmanuel Macron of France was in Nigeria from July 3-5 2018 and unlike most visits by foreign heads of state, there was something unique, novel and refreshingly different about it. The visit covered official and governmental, nongovernmental, private and business. It was the most comprehensive and encompassing of any of such visits combining business with pleasure and entertainment

L-R: President of France, Emmanuel Macron; Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode; and President/CE, Dangote Industries Limited, Aliko Dangote. Photo Credit: The Eagle Online

Perhaps, this could be due to the youthful age of the president. At 39 he is still driven by energy, dreams and idealism, exemplified in his visit to the Afrika Shrine and dialogue with alumni of Tony Elumelu Foundation. The visit to the Shrine, founded by the late music maestro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, was innovative and an endorsement his great contributions to African culture.

It was the first formal meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and the French President since their assumptions of office. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the visit would support improved ties and trade relations between the two countries. According to him, the French is involved in the G5 Sahel multinational Task Force fighting Boko Haram, and Al-Qaida in the Sahel and also the other terrorist groups.

France has been the most European country prone to terrorism. On January 7 and 9, 2015 a total of 17 people were killed in terror attacks ignited by a publication in the French satirical weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo, a kosher grocery store and the Paris suburb of Montrouge and a truck attack which claimed 84 lives.

The French President also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for French Energy and Environmental companies for an environmental project in Ogun State. The project is reforestation and also brings in investments in developing timber and other agricultural products and expected create about 150,000 jobs.

The commissioning of a new complex of the French cultural organisation, Alliance Francaise, in Lagos is also very significant. It has 10 active representations in Enugu, Ibadan, Ilorin, Jos, Kano, Kaduna, Lagos, Maiduguri, Owerri and Port Harcourt. Its objectives are teaching of French worldwide, making French as well as fostering cultural diversity through the promotion of all cultures.

The French language is very popular in Nigeria, although we are an Anglophone country. The language is being taught at every school level. In fact, Nigeria has a French Language Village in Badagry, Lagos, which was established in 1991.

Macron trained in Nigeria as a Senior Civil Servant in 2004. This visit is historic in many respects. First, Macron is the first foreign President to officially visit the Afrika Shrine. This is a huge endorsement for the club-house founded by Fela.

It was in his engagements with the nongovernmental and business groups that the French President delivered a resounding message for the continent. At the TEF meeting with over 2000 young entrepreneurs sponsored by the Foundation, Macron stated that the future of Africa lies with the promotion of the private sector and entrepreneurship stressing that the twin problem of poverty and unemployment can only be overcome by developing the private sector. He pledged a $1 billion support fund for the programme.

Also in a meeting with the business community hosted by the Nigeria-French Business Association, Macron restated the need to encourage and develop the private sector, and called on government to create enabling conditions for businesses to thrive. According to him, it is only business groups that can improve the economy and the lives of people. He said he will encourage French businesses to invest in Nigeria, noting the long trade relationship between the two countries.

He admonished Nigerian leaders on the need to promote youth empowerment because they are the future of any society and better positioned to protect and advance it; and advised the youths to participate in both in business and politics.

This visit came at an auspicious period in th history of the country as we approach another general where the incumbent, a 78 old man is re-contesting, and will be over 80 when he leaves office, in a country the youth population is about 60 percent.

Population is an asset but a youthful population that is largely unskilled and jobless is not only liability but a potential time bomb. Until government policies begin to focus on develop the youth its potential will remain latent and dormant, which will directly impact national development because they are the national workforce.

This newspaper agree with the French President that we create an atmosphere of peace and security as well as develop social infrastructure such as education, employment and health needed foreign investment will not come and the huge youth population will be challenge to the future of the country.

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