France on charm offensive, woos Nigeria business leaders

France is eyeing more opportunities in Africa’s biggest economy, which it plans to fully optimise through the use of increased investments, partnerships and business expansions. However, these investments are to flow both ways, and in particular, with an expectation for some of Nigeria’s biggest business leaders to ‘Choose France’ as an investment destination.

Although the trade and investment relationship between both countries has existed for a long time with France maintaining its position as one of the top 10 trading partners of Nigeria both in exports and imports, France now wants more Nigerian businesses to do more business with its companies.

This has been actively promoted since 2018 through the Choose France Summit, which aims to promote France’s regions as attractive destinations for international investment. Involving the whole government and the main administrations in contact with businesses, it is unique in the major role it lends to business meetings.

This year’s summit had some of Nigeria’s biggest business leaders in attendance, and the inauguration of the France-Nigeria Business Council by Emmanuel Macron, president of France. Abdul Samad Rabiu, founder/chairman of Nigeria’s BUA Group was appointed by Macron to be the council’s inaugural president, with other members as Gilbert Chagoury, chairman, Chagoury Group; Mike Adenuga, chairman, Globacom; Aliko Dangote, chairman, Dangote Industries; Tony Elumelu, chairman, UBA/Heirs Holdings, and Herbert Wigwe, chairman, Access Bank.

French companies like Dassault, Danone, Axens, Ponticelli, and Total Energies are also members of the council.

It would be recalled that Franck Riester, France’s Minister for Foreign Trade and Attractiveness, had earlier in April announced Rabiu as the Chairman of the France Nigeria Investment Club.

Speaking at the inaugural meeting of the council in Paris, Rabiu said that prior to the establishment of the council, French businesses have been outrightly unable to do business with Nigeria but the narrative will change following the council’s activities.

“Nigeria is blessed with numerous potentials for French companies to do business across different areas, the French Nigeria Business Council will reset the business relationship between both countries and create a viable platform for businesses from both countries to partner and improve business ties,” he said.

Riester in an interview with BusinessDay had said Nigeria is a strategic economic partner for France in Africa and France is deeply committed to further developing its growing trade and investment relationship particularly in agriculture, manufacturing, and transport.

He had also said Nigeria happened to be the first recipient of France direct investments in Sub-Saharan Africa, in addition French companies have invested over 10 billion euros in Nigeria with no less than 100 French companies employing over 10,000 people, mostly Nigerians.

The investments run across different sectors ranging from pharmaceutical industry to microfinance, insurance, logistics, dairy production and energy.

Nigeria is also France’s leading trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa with Natural hydrocarbons and other extractive industries products accounting for 97 percent of Nigeria’s exports to France.

“We are sure the future of Nigeria is hinged on industrialization and production, I really want France and Nigeria to increase their trading relation beyond the oil and gas exchanges, I am convinced that we could do more together in the transport sector,” he said.

The Choose France Summit from the three previous editions, is known to be an event that is followed with actions and concrete investments, beyond chats and deliberations.

The announcements from previous summits have included 36 projects totalling €6.5 billion. To date, 20 projects have been completed, totalling €2.3 billion, while 14 are underway, for a total of €4.2 billion (including the building of two cruise ships ordered by MSC in early 2020 for €2 billion). Only one project, worth €9 million, has been abandoned, according to information shared with BusinessDay from the French government.

Nigeria, on the other hand, remains a choice destination for French investors who have established companies like Peugeot, Air France, CFAO.

There is also Proparco, a subsidiary of Agence Française de Dévelopment (AFD) that focuses on private sector development, and has invested roughly €800 million in Nigeria since its establishment. Partnering with indigenous banks, it has invested an average of €80 to €90 million annually in Nigeria.

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