Paris, 23 May 2008
Q. – Now that a year has elapsed since the investiture of the French President, what are the most noteworthy developments in French foreign policy vis-à-vis the African continent and what objectives can be considered already achieved?
THE PRESIDENT – There are some simple things I firmly believe.
The first is that relations between France and Africa must be based on mutual respect, equality, transparency and reciprocal interests – my country’s and the Africans’.
The second is that the Africa of 2008 is not that of 1960. What was valid 50 years ago no longer is today. Africa is breaking free and wants to resolve its problems and crises itself. France must accept all the consequences of this and support the Africans’ ambition.
And the third is that the human cost to Africa of the twentieth century was enormous, and that France, taking responsibility for her past in Africa, is wholly mindful of the debt she owes it. France believes in the renaissance of Africa and will help it integrate into the globalized world of the twenty-first century.
Against this background, I have taken some very firm positions, never expressed until now, on colonization and its crimes.
Furthermore, I have proposed to our African friends that together we re-examine the defence agreements between us in order to modernize our military relations. These discussions have already begun.
I have also announced that the French armed forces weren’t destined to remain in Africa indefinitely. The Africans are building their own collective defence system. France wants to help them do this because it’s in all our interests.
France is also keen to see a greater involvement of Europe alongside the Africans. We are currently deploying the European EUFOR force in Chad and RECAMP, the French programme for training African forces has been transformed into a European programme entitled EUROCAMP. This is a major development.
Also France is going to put in place new instruments for financial aid to development. What I want is for us to help the Africans create their own job-generating businesses. Africa’s economic development lies in the hands of African entrepreneurs. We must help them innovate and create wealth and jobs for their countries. African growth must be speeded up. France has already just established a €250 million investment fund and a guarantee fund of the same amount. You see, France does what she says! And I hope other sponsors will follow in her footsteps.
Finally, I can’t accept that Africa, representing a fifth of the planet, hasn’t got its full place in the global fora, be it the G8 or Security Council.
France doesn’t want to be in Africa in order to perpetuate, in other forms, the unequal relations which belong to a past that is over.
Q. – What are France’s priorities in the field of bilateral Franco-Angolan cooperation?
THE PRESIDENT – France wishes to play a full part in the rebuilding of Angola in every sphere, in infrastructure as well as in human resources. As regards infrastructure, we have already decided to resume the activities of the French Development Agency (AFD) which will fund major projects in the fields of energy, water, sanitation, and also in vocational training. An AFD agency will reopen in Luanda before the end of 2008.
Training will be at the heart of our relations and the French effort to help Angola’s development. Two projects are going to start in the next few weeks: the first in agri-foodstuffs, Angola’s most promising sector outside mineral resources. We want to help your country regain its former ranking in global agricultural production and prepare for the major food challenges ahead. The Malanje Food College which the Angolan State has set up will train the engineers and technicians who will be the future heads of the Angolan agri-foodstuffs industry. To support it, we have chosen Agropolis in Montpellier, the world leader in tropical agronomy and the agri-foodstuffs industry.
The second project concerns the teaching of the French language because we think it essential for young Angolan students to be able, if they so wish, to pursue a specialization in our country, for example in medicine, the pure sciences and engineering. (…)
To sum up, I have come to Angola to ask President Dos Santos a question: you wish to build the Angola of tomorrow; how can France help you realize your ambitions?
I am convinced, and it’s the purpose of my visit to Angola, of the need to involve all the active forces in our nations. By that I mean mobilize businesses, universities, regions, major cities, museums, cultural centres and audiovisual training centres in support of Angola’s development effort. For this we need to be inventive. This is why I am proposing the creation of a France-Angola foundation, bringing together public and private-sector partners, to carry out major training and cultural projects. This foundation will be the instrument for revitalizing relations between our countries.
PRIORITY ECONOMIC SECTORS
Q. – Which economic sectors does France wish to give priority to in her relations with Angola?
THE PRESIDENT – As regards economic relations between France and Angola, I note first of all that these are developing vigorously in both directions. In two years, Angolan oil exports to France have increased so much that Angola has become a major supplier of France. Over the same period, French sales to Angola have gone up by two thirds. I’m convinced we can do even more.
France’s first priority is to assist Angola in the diversification of her economy and not just in developing her oil and gas industry. Consequently, France is encouraging French firms in non-oil sectors to come and discover Angola. The movement has already begun. Businesses are already active there, like the Castel group, which has breweries in four parts of the country and is in the process of doubling its investment.
For us to get to know each other even better, there’ll be information meetings in France on Angola and general fact-finding missions with French companies going to Angola.
France’s second priority is to support Angola’s regional development, to reduce the imbalances. Already, when you look at the map of Angola, all sectors taken together, you see that the French companies aren’t just in Luanda. They’ve already invested in Soyo and Lobito. But we’ll soon see them in other cities: Huambo and Ambriz. And the business missions coming to Angola won’t stay in Luanda. Every time they’ll be going into the provinces.
The third priority is Angolanization, i.e. use of Angolan suppliers – a labour policy whereby French companies in Angola employ growing numbers of Angolans – and creation of partnerships. French companies have made most headway in this respect. They employ several thousand people in total. They use local suppliers. They’ve also set up joint ventures. France will continue to encourage these partnerships. In return, it’s normal for these companies to hope that the Angolan principals take account of their efforts.
France’s fourth priority is to support Angola in her policy of creating regional rail and road corridors, particularly between the Atlantic Ocean, central Africa and the Indian Ocean. The aim is to restore important transport links which functioned perfectly in the past – I’m thinking particularly of the Benguela railway. This policy will give Angola back a more important place in the region since, because of her geographical position, she will become a regional platform, including for air transport.
So, which sectors in particular? Straight off I can think of transport, port, railway and airport infrastructures, agri-foodstuffs and agriculture, water, building and civil engineering works, telecommunications, information technology, healthcare institutions and public-private partnerships. France is ready to make her expertise available to Angola in all these areas requiring high-technology skills.
OIL AND GAS SECTORS
Q. – The oil sector is pretty much a traditional area of cooperation between the two countries. What new proposals does France intend making in this field?
THE PRESIDENT – Elf was present in Angola for decades. Total, Elf’s successor, is one of the leading oil companies in Angola and France is Angola’s sixth most important customer for oil. This shows just how long-standing and important the relationship is. French companies are also active in the oil-related industries. They have created many partnerships. I’m thinking, for example, of Acergy, Bourbon, Petromar, Ponticelli, Schlumberger, Spie and Technip. There are others too.
In terms of new proposals from France, there’s the gas sector. Total is a partner in the Soyo project for liquefied natural gas, which is starting to take shape. Gas will become a new field of cooperation between the two countries.
France wants to put her relations in many other spheres on the front burner because the expertise and excellence of French companies – often leaders in their field – extends over a wide range of sectors. And then, for her part, with a 20% growth rate over the past four years, to satisfy her demand Angola is looking to international suppliers in a growing variety of sectors. (…)./.