France will invest about R114-billion (€10-billion) in sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years, creating about 300 000 jobs, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Parliament on Thursday.
The French Development Agency’s (FDA) initiative will indirectly or directly finance nearly 2 000 companies, Sarkozy told a joint sitting.
”When this initiative is concluded, the total French bilateral financial commitment to sub-Saharan Africa will thus amount to €10-billion over the coming five-year period.”
The investment will include helping African small and medium enterprises obtain bank credit and capital, as well as greater FDA agency support of the private sector.
In the first visit of a French head of state to South Africa since prime minister Lionel Jospin in July 2001, Sarkozy said there is a need for renewed African-French relations based on transparency and contemporary realities.
Referring to the colonial history between the two continents, he called for an end to inequality, exploitation and resentment.
The security and prosperity of France and Europe are ”indissolubly linked” with that of Africa. ”Whether one agrees or disagrees with it, globalisation is now here to stay. It would be completely unrealistic and dangerous to attempt to manage the affairs of the world without Africa,” he said.
Delivering his speech in French, he addressed President Thabo Mbeki several times as ”cher Thabo [dear Thabo]” while making a point.
Peace and security, the struggle against poverty, economic growth and the continent’s inclusion in globalisation are interests shared by both countries. ”The growth potential of your continent, its natural resources and its promising market make it part of the world we cannot ignore.”
While the two countries have ”deep and long-standing relations”, these have been neglected, Sarkozy said. ”The number of French citizens living in Africa, as well as the volume of French exports to Africa and French investments in Africa, has declined. This has resulted in our traditional partners in Africa sometimes feeling that France has abandoned and lost interest in them.”
Future relations of the two countries cannot be discussed without taking migration into account. However, he ruled out a ”zero immigration” policy as unrealistic and dangerous.
Sixty-five percent of the 200 000 foreign nationals who take up residence in France every year come from Africa, he said. South Africa receives nearly one-quarter of all migrant populations in Africa.
”It is the responsibility of every government to decide how many migrants it is prepared to receive on its territory and under what conditions … The principle applies to Europeans and Africans alike.”
Sarkozy said a European-African partnership on migration has to stop the brain drain, deal with organised crime and help migrant populations support the development of their countries of origin.
Noting that Africa carries 24% of the world’s disease burden but only has 3% of its health workers, he called for ”return migration”. France, he said, has more Beninese doctors than Benin itself.
He called for efforts to stop ”African elites” emigrating for good.
The best guarantors of peace and security in Africa are democracy and justice.
”This is true in Côte d’Ivoire, where I hope free, fair and recognised elections will be held. The same is true in Zimbabwe. It also applies to Chad,” he said.
He began his speech with a summary of the violence that has marked the 20th century and acknowledged South Africa for teaching the world a ”magnificent lesson” in humanity.
Before his speech, Sarkozy was introduced by chief whip of the National Council of Provinces Nosipho Ntwanambi.
While she was doing this, Sarkozy, sitting next to Mbeki, repeatedly looked up into the gallery and smiled at his wife, model-turned-singer Carla Bruni. — Sapa