France Africa relations: Le Grand Divorce? By Nicholas Norbrook
June 11, 2012 | 0 Comments
Informal networks and unscrutinised presidential authority have shaped France’s Africa policy for decades. The last time a socialist politician won the presidency – François Mitterrand (1981-1995) – he promised to radically shake up France-Africa relations, as did President Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012). It is now President François Hollande’s turn to try to push for good governance and to normalise relations with France’s former colonies.
Tricolores, alongside Algerian and Syrian flags, billowed over Place de la Bastille on 6 May, a historic ground zero for global revolutionaries and a happy stamping ground for France’s left. The election of the Socialist candidate to the Elysée raises hopes in Africa too. Perhaps this time there will be a definitive break with the past, an end to the nebulous and opaque net- works of what has become known as Françafrique. Perhaps.
The main charge against France is that it froze the political evolution of its former colonies, even as it gave them independence (see timeline). Proof of the perennity of the system: President Nicolas Sarkozy supported the attempt to shoe horn Karim Wade, son of the increasingly autocratic Abdoulaye Wade, into the Senegalese presidency. France’s foreign minister Michèle Alliot-Marie offered French police training to the thugs of Presid- ent Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. This attempt by a French minister to stop the Arab Spring in its tracks – by a minister who had been accepting largesse from her Tunisian counter- parts – is the latest stain on France’s conscience.
And this political freeze has led to arrested development. On many metrics, Francophone African countries lag behind their continental peers. French-speaking Africa represents 19% of sub-Saharan Africa’s gross domestic product, whereas English-speaking Africa represents around a half – and that is excluding South Africa. Of the 187 countries ranked by the United Nations Development Programme’s human development index, seven of the 10 worst performers are Francophone countries. Burundi, Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the last three on that list. France gets 60% of the uranium it uses for its world-beating nuclear industry from Africa – including Niger.
CÉLLULE AFRICAINE NO MORE
Not everyone agrees. Côte d’ Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara told The Africa Report: “If you take Francophone countries of the CFA franc zone, I think that the situation is actually much better than many Anglophone countries. There has been a real mastering of inflation, which really is a cancer for the poor. There has been strong growth. Perhaps the populations of these countries did not get as fair a share of this growth as they should have.”
Regardless of the debate over how far Francophone Africa has been hamstrung by its former colonial master, the question going forward is can Hollande end Françafrique? During his campaign Hollande claimed, like Sarkozy before him, that there would be a ‘rupture’ with “the old habits of Françafrique”.
But Kader Arif, a Socialist member of the European Parliament and Hollande’s advisor on development mat- ters, says that the change will be radical. “We will get rid of the cellule africaine, place African affairs under the Minister of Foreign Affairs and give parliament anoversightrole.”This is a positive sign: the personalisation of politics under Elysée secretary general Jacques Foccart allowed for clientelism to flourish.
And there are signs that Hollande will be tougher on corruption. Addressing members of Amnesty International and Oxfam, his defence spokesman Jean-Yves Le Drian has said Hollande will impose tighter controls on arms sales. French company Thompson-CSF (now Thales) was involved in a troubled South African arms deal of 1999.
Another of Hollande’s advisors is William Bourdon of Sherpa, a non-govern- mental organisation formed by lawyers that took three Central African lead- ers to court – Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, the late Omar Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville – in March 2007. The investigators behind the ‘biens mal acquis’ affair demand that these presidents account for their endless lists of properties and bank accounts in France. Eva Joly, the 2012 presidential candidate for the Europe Écologie-Les Verts party and the former investigative magistrate who brought down the national oil company Elf in the 1990s, may well receive a role in government.
NOT JUST ANY REGIME
The ties that bind France’s political elite to the Françafrique system run deep. Eyebrows were raised when Laurent Fabius, a potential future foreign minister for Hollande, made trips to see the presidents of Gabon, Togo and Benin between December 2011 and this February. Contacted for this article, Fabius declined to comment. For Jean-Christophe Rufin, France’s former ambassador to Senegal under Sarkozy, this sent all the wrong signals, “as if the bad old habits have come back”.
“Not at all,” said Arif. “We will not work with just any regime, and it’s not only the candidate [François Hollande]who is saying this but it is a collective expression of will. Those regimes that are not moving in the direction of democracy shouldn’t be frequented.” He went on to explain the importance of opening France to non-traditional partners including South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria.
Kofi Yamgnane, a Franco-Togolese politician now running Africa relations for Hollande, is a connection to the days of the late President François Mitterrand. The last time the Socialists had the presidency, there was a similar great hope for change in Franco-African relations that was quickly dashed. On discovering how Elf showered the French political class with money, Mitterrand did not close down the system but just insisted the Parti Socialiste receive its cut. His son, Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, or ‘Papa m’a dit’ (Papa told me) as he came to be known, was good friends with the son of Charles Pasqua, a key player in President Jacques Chirac’s Africa policy. Both sons would be caught up in the Angolagate affair, the illegal sale of arms to Angola.
President Sarkozy did not appear to remove himself from the shadowy net- works of years past. Pascaline Bongo, who ran her father’s finances, sat in the front row at Sarkozy’s investiture as candidate, next to the financiers of his…
Brazil pledges investment fund for Africa
May 12, 2012 | 0 Comments
Africa – Brazil pledged major investment and technology transfer to Africa to repay a “solidarity debt” from a country with a huge black population to the poorest but resource-rich continent.
“Brazil must begin to repay the solidarity debt we have with Africa,” former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Thursday, in his first public address since he was diagnosed with larynx cancer in October.
The world’s sixth-largest economy “owes its current strength to the more than 300 years of slavery during which we exploited the sweat and blood of millions of Africans,” he added.
Lula gave major impetus to relations with Africa while he was in power from 2003 to 2010, making several trips to the continent and reminding his hosts there that Brazil has the world’s second-largest black population after Nigeria.
Leaders of top state and private Brazilian companies with interests in Africa, including oil giant Petrobras, mining conglomerate Vale and construction firm Odebrecht pledged to boost investment in Africa during a seminar sponsored by the powerful state Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES).
“The (African) continent has been posting robust GDP growth for 10 years and in 2012, it can grow nearly six percent,” Lula said.
“The middle class there already totals 300 million people. The number of young people in schools and universities is growing. More than 430 million Africans use cell phones.”
Guinea-Bissau’s Carlos Lopes, appointed to be the next executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, told the seminar that Libya is expected to post GDP growth of 76 percent this year, Sierra Leone 35 percent, while Angola, Congo and Mozambique are set for “double-digit growth.”
BNDES chief Luciano Coutinho described investment opportunities in Africa as “extraordinary,” particularly in the areas of agriculture and energy, transport, technology, farm equipment, telecommunications, the petrochemical and auto sectors as well as banking and pharmaceuticals.
But he stressed that there was still a lack of financing and said that BNDES would guarantee “its commitment as a national bank to help face this challenge.”
And Brazilian companies signaled their interest in competing with China for Africa’s huge mineral resources and growing consumer market.
Brazil’s leading investment bank Banco BTG Pactual used the occasion to announce a $1 billion Africa investment fund, the biggest in the world, with capital collected in the country.
“It will be the biggest fund in Brazil with a special focus on the African continent,” BTG Pactual president Andre Esteves said.
“The creation of this ‘private equity’ is a demonstration of the enormous confidence and affinity Brazil has with this region of the world.”
Petrobras chief Graca Foster hailed Africa as an “exceptional new market,” but called for improved national regulations to spur further investment.
The energy leader is currently present in seven African countries.
Vale, the world’s top iron producer, says it has $7.7 billion worth of investments in nine African countries.
The mining giant is also modernizing and building 900 kilometers (550 miles) of railways as well as a deep-water port in Portuguese-speaking Mozambique, said Vale president Murilo Ferreira, who complained about African bureaucracy.
Brazilian exports to Africa soared from $2.4 billion in 2002 to $12.2 billion last year, while trade with the continent jumped from $4.3 billion in 2000 to $27.6 billion in 2011, according to official statistics.
*Courtesy of http://www.portalangop.co.ao
The Africa Finance & Investment Forum Seeks To Strengthen Private Sector In Africa-Idit Miller
May 12, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
In line with the United Nations International year of Cooperatives, the Africa Finance & Investment Forum will serve as a platform to strengthen the private sector in Africa .Slated for June 17-19, the event is expected to bring together Over 250 decision makers from around the world. According to Idit Miller Managing Director & Vice President of the EMRC, the forum provides an excellent platform for a productive dialogue between entrepreneurs and investors, policy makers and private sector, between south-north and south-south, as well as a perfect opportunity to identify partners and investors. Considered as the pulse of the EMRC, Idit was among the first of EMRC’s founding members to recognize the importance of international business networking. With a deep wealth of experience in organising International business events, Idit Miller shares more on AFIF 2012 with PAV.
PAV: The EMRC will be organizing the Africa Finance and Investment Forum in June; may we know what the forum is all about?
Idit Miller: EMRC’s Africa Finance & Investment Forum is one of our showcase events, aimed at strengthening the private sector in Africa, by encouraging partnerships and attracting investments. The forum is designed for entrepreneurs interested in securing finance for their projects, for private investors looking for projects, as well as for policy makers, financiers and bankers. In 2007 the forum was held in Lisbon, under the patronage of the Portuguese EU Presidency, in 2008 – in Paris at the Credit Agricole and in 2009, AFIF was organized in partnership with the FMO and held at the ABN AMRO Bank in Amsterdam. In 2011 AFIF was held as the “AfDB-EMRC SME Forum” in Lisbon, in the framework of the African Development Bank’s Annual Meetings.
This year EMRC associates its forum with the “International Year of Cooperatives”, highlighting the contribution of cooperatives to the sustainable socio-economic development in Africa.
Focusing on “Financial inclusion through SMEs & Cooperatives”, AFIF 2012 is hosted and organized in partnership with Rabobank, a Dutch based international financial services provider operating on cooperative principles, one of the world’s largest financial institutions.
Among the many AFIF partner Organizations we can mention: Food First-Floriade, Oikocredit, FMO, AfDB, FARA, Hivos, Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation and Shell Foundation. AFIF 2012 will consist of a two days programme at the Rabobank headquarters in Utrecht and a third day programme in partnership with Food First as well as guided visits to Floriade 2012 (Venlo-Netherlands) – a World Horticultural Exposition that occurs only once every ten years. An important part of the forum are the B2B sessions, where delegates meet and discuss projects, investment and collaboration opportunities following pre-arranged meetings.
All in all, AFIF2012 is about allowing delegates to meet key decision makers from all over the world and it is about sharing expertise during pragmatic and interactive workshops and plenary sessions. At AFIF2012 people will also have the opportunity to participate in B2B pre-arranged meetings and to submit their projects to the challenging “EMRC-Hivos Project Incubator Award” competition! So there are plenty of good reasons for delegates to attend our international business event.
PAV: How is the forum expected to impact on development in Africa?
Idit Miller: The EMRC Forums (AFIF and others) are excellent platforms for a productive dialogue between entrepreneurs and investors, policy makers and private sector, between south-north and south-south, as well as perfect opportunity to identify partners and investors. Through the pragmatic sessions and pre-arranged business meetings we help forge strong and solid partnerships between the different actors that work in Africa and strive to bring sustainable development to the continent: young and innovative entrepreneurs, development agencies, public sector representatives, investors, bankers, and academia. Sub-Saharan Africa is of course a big and diverse 54 country continent and in the EMRC forums we address the issues that matter on each part of the continent and help bridge the differences and challenges that different countries face. The personal assistance throughout the year is of course a great benefit for our members.
PAV: What criteria are used in the selection of participants and may we have an idea of some companies or personalities who will be in attendance at the forum?
Idit Miller: Our forums are open to all those who have projects in Africa and look for partners and investors, and those who want to invest in Africa and look for good sustainable opportunities. Much of our effort is addressed to the SMEs, professional organisations, finance, services and agro-industry sectors in Africa. EMRC celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, which means that we have been in the “business” for long and we are happy to see that more people are knocking at our door with the wish to be involved and contribute to Africa’s development; they are all welcome.
EMRC and Rabobank are expecting around 250 delegates from around the world. Among the personalities and companies I can mention Berry Marttin, Member of Rabobank’s Executive Board; Jean-Luc Perron, Managing Director of the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation, the Chairman of AFRACA (African Rural & Agriculture Credit Association), Monty Jones, Executive Director of FARA (Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa), Jean-Michel Severino, Managing Director – I&P, former Managing Director AFD (French Development Agency), Fabian Kasi, Centenary Bank Uganda and others ( from FMO, AfDB, Oikocredit, Heineken, GIZ and many more.
PAV: Did the forum of last year produce any tangible results and for are there any changes that will be witnessed at the 2012 forum?
Idit Miller: We evaluate the success of our initiatives through the number of partnerships that are forged among the delegates. In our last event held in Johannesburg over 1.000 meetings took place, from those meetings concrete businesses were made: investments in different sectors (mainly agriculture and agro-food), exchange of expertise, buying/selling of equipments, new technologies, etc.
The EMRC Project Incubator Award initiative also provides very concrete and short-term results – this year the Award of US$15.000 will be sponsored by Hivos, the Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation.
The Project Incubator Award is an EMRC initiative launched in 2008 at the FAO headquarters in Rome. The award aims at encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa among SMEs. Finalists present their business projects during the forum’s plenary session and the winning project is announced at the gala event.
We offer the winners and finalists public recognition, media attention and extensive exposure to investors, donors and business partners. Susan Belemtougri, the 2011 winner of the Project Incubator award told us on an interview that the “prize honors the women of Africa and in particular the women of Burkina Faso. It will incite the future competitiveness of women entrepreneurs and even male entrepreneurs because my presentation set a tone and even generated enthusiasm from a large number of EMRC participants to be even more focused and to invest better in their businesses and projects. “
PAV: You have hosted quite some events and forums in Africa, what are some of the challenges that you have faced and if you had recommendations that could improve on the business and investment climate in Africa what will there be?
Idit Miller: Indeed, one of our main annual events, the EMRC AgriBusiness Forum, takes place in Africa since a few years, following our members’ requests– it was one of the best decisions we ever made, especially for our members.
The AgriBusiness Forum is the biggest pan-African Agribusiness event held on African soil, which gathers around 500 delegates from around the world. The challenges that we faced in South Africa or in Uganda, or in Africa in general are not so different from the ones in Europe. It is about the hard and professional work of many months, building trust among the potential participants and convincing potential partners that the 150 or so African delegates are all highly valuable and excellent potential partners.
PAV: May we know other events or activities that the EMRC has in line for the rest of the year?
Idit Miller: I invite all the ones interested in our activities to visit our website (www.emrc.be) and until the end of 2012 we will promote the AgriBusiness Forum in West Africa, the Africa-India Economic Mission, a regional event in Maputo, Mozambique, and a few tailor-made activities in Brussels.