In 2018, I hosted H.E. President Emmanuel Macron in Lagos. We share some fundamental ideas in common – the urgency of economically empowering our youth, the potential of entrepreneurship, using technology for good – and for all – a focus on execution, the need to do things now.
As part of the President’s visit to Nigeria, we gave a platform for the world to see a bold and new vision of Africa’s reimagined relationship with France. As we jointly addressed over 2,000 young African entrepreneurs in an interactive session, President Macron shared with me his reflections on this new bilateral partnership, based on mutual respect, and prioritising the role of youth entrepreneurship in driving Africa’s economic renaissance. He was direct, and candid about France’s often complicated history with Africa and this was refreshing for our young people as they appreciated a politician, who took the time to speak with them and not at them, someone who applied his private sector experience to public sector problems. We concluded with the signing of a €125.4 million agreement between the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Proparco, the French development agency, the United Bank for Africa (UBA), and the Tony Elumelu Foundation to empower young entrepreneurs and advance entrepreneurship across Africa.
Since then, we have led efforts with the French Government, to establish a formidable partnership that creates more opportunities for Africans to live more meaningful and prosperous lives, through entrepreneurship. I am a founding member of President Macron’s Tech4Good initiative, championing gender equality, access to technology and support for small businesses.
As part of these broader advocacy efforts, the European Commission has renewed its commitment to accelerating Africa’s economic prosperity, through a €20million partnership with the Tony Elumelu Foundation, to empower 2,500 African women entrepreneurs.
Three years after President Macron’s visit in 2018, we are again at the forefront of efforts to expand Africa’s trade relationship with France – I want to see this new relationship of mutual respect made a reality. I am a champion of creating value in Africa and I know our continent can export more than just natural resources.
Today, Monday, June 28, 2021, I will attend the “Choose France” Business Summit in Paris, a gathering of global business leaders and leading French CEOs, to meet and discuss bi-lateral investment opportunities, at the invitation of President Macron. During this Summit, I will also participate in the France-Nigeria Business Council Meeting, which will further highlight the valuable opportunities for French and Nigerian business leaders in attendance to promote trade and bilateral investment operations between Nigeria and France.
Much has changed between President Macron’s visit and now. Post-covid19, the African economy has proven its strength, and resilience. In my discussions, I will highlight this resilience, and the need for government and policymakers to prioritize sectors like power and manufacturing industries, as this will significantly expand trade within and outside the continent, and the contribution of the private businesses’ investment. Enhanced power supply has a positive effect on trade, as it drives operational efficiency, reduces costs and wastage and better optimises productivity of our pool of capable human resources in Africa.
Sustainable development will not be realised in isolation. We must continue to work more closely with global private and public sector leaders. The African narrative is changing, and the EU remains Africa’s leading economic partner. We must utilize every opportunity to emphasize the tremendous benefits of an Africa free of poverty and unemployment. I salute President Macron’s bold approach – and look forward to achieving results that work for Africa and Africans.
NOTE; This op-ed was written by Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holding. You may find the original piece on his LinkedIn page.
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