• Friday, July 19, 2024
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Africa-France summit kicks off with focus on young entrepreneurs

Africa-France summit

Over 1,500 young entrepreneurs, about a third of which are from Africa have converged in Paris for the New Africa-France Summit, which Elysee officials say is deliberately targeted at young people and not government officials as usual.

The delegates started meetings on Tuesday, under Ambition Africa, 2021 hosted by the French Ministry of Economy, Finance, and the Recovery, to be followed by another event today by BPI France.

The Africa-France summit is the first of its magnitude, according to officials who spoke with BusinessDay, where heads of governments or agencies would not be at the centre of deliberations. The old method of having 54 countries sit around the table is less effective, an Elysee official said.

“The goal of this summit is not to have the usual suspects in the room,” said Benoit Verdeaux, secretary general of the New Africa-France Summit. “We wanted to have the real stakeholders meeting face to face.”

The average age of participants, according to Verdeaux, will be 25-35 years, which will be new for a summit of this type. The summit, he says, will also afford France an opportunity to get better perspectives on its relationship with African countries and improve them as would be required.

The main summit itself takes place on Friday in Montpellier, where Emmanuel Macron, President of France will be attending a plenary session to get feedback on the deliberations over the course of preceding meetings.

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BusinessDay learnt the French President wants to take this direct feedback in a plenary format where solutions can be proffered to obstacles identified in order to enhance relations between France and the African continent, and especially the business community.

“This summit is announcing a break with the past,” emphasised Verdeaux, who explained that having the young entrepreneurs from Africa in attendance, along with other Diaspora African entrepreneurs and their French counterparts, will be a meeting of young minds that will actually be in charge of the future.

In other meetings with Elysee Palace officials, it was again, reiterated that the goal of the summit is to create bridges between young people in Africa and those in France.

This summit is coming four years after President Macron’s landmark speech at the Ouagadougou University in Burkina Faso, where he had signified intentions to recalibrate Africa-France relationship, but without impositions; real or perceived.

“These barriers between a French-speaking Africa and an English-speaking Africa, between a North Africa and a sub-Saharan Africa, between a French-speaking Africa and a Portuguese-speaking Africa; all these barriers are artificial,” he had said in his 2017 speech. “They merely, to a certain extent, impose upon us a past that we must move on from, perceptions that were, and constructions that must evolve.”

This new summit, according to French officials, signifies the re-launch of France-Africa relationship and would lead to reviving initiatives, either that were launched but failed to achieve desired results or that perhaps did not even take off before.

“The president is committed to getting youths in both countries to work together for building stronger economic ties,” said an Elysee Official. Asked if Africa policy and diplomacy will change after the summit, it was stated that there would be follow-ups following the summit as it would not be a one-off event.

“The aim is for people not to go back to their old habits,” it was said.