French Foreign Trade Minister Olivier Becht strongly refuted the notion of France’s waning influence in Africa ahead of his visit to Nigeria. He emphasized the ongoing importance of French investment in the continent, particularly in Nigeria, France’s leading trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa.
Speaking before his departure to Lagos, French Foreign Trade Minister Olivier Becht asserted, “France is in no way being driven out of Africa. Contrary to certain media and social network claims, our presence and influence are not diminishing.” He highlighted the presence of about 100 French companies in Nigeria, underscoring the country’s pivotal economic role in the region.
Minister Becht is scheduled to sign several contracts in Nigeria, accompanied by representatives from various French small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This move is a commitment to strengthen France’s economic ties with Africa, particularly in key sectors like mobility, education, and health infrastructure.
He remarked, “France stands with Africans in investing across various domains. It’s crucial for the growth of the African continent and the French economy.” He further stressed the role of French SMEs in global expansion, highlighting the economic aspect of France’s influence in Africa, especially at a time when military presence has been scaled back from countries like Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso.
Despite the growing influence of countries like China and Russia in Africa, Becht believes France has compelling advantages. “Our products, known for meeting high environmental standards and considering local populations, create significant added value. This approach differentiates us from Chinese and Russian companies,” he stated.
The context of Becht’s comments is crucial. French President Emmanuel Macron has acknowledged the need for a revised French strategy in Africa, calling for a more balanced partnership with African nations. This comes amidst a decline in France’s traditional influence on the continent, as evidenced by the withdrawal of French troops from Mali and Burkina Faso and increasing competition from Russia, China, and Turkey.
Macron’s approach includes modifying France’s military deployment in the Sahel region and focusing on a partnership-based presence in Africa, moving away from post-colonial interference. This shift aims to align Europe and Africa closely in the face of various global challenges.
In light of these developments, Minister Becht’s reassurances underline France’s intent to maintain and enhance its economic and diplomatic engagement in Africa. Despite the evolving geopolitical landscape and competition from other global powers, France appears committed to sustaining and adapting its longstanding ties with African nations.