Official Visit of the French Prime Minister to Nigeria...
May 22 – 23, 2009
French Prime Minister, Mr François FILLON, paid an official visit to Nigeria on May 22 – 23, 2009, first visit by a French Prime Minister to Nigeria since her independence.
The visit came less than a year after the Nigerian and French presidents agreed upon a strategic partnership during the Nigerian president’s official visit to France, in June 2008. The French Prime Minister was leading a delegation of 4 Cabinet Ministers, Members of the Parliament and businessmen.
Prime Minister FILLON, with his interpreter on his right, and the French Ambassador to Nigeria, Jean-Michel DUMOND, on his left
In Abuja, French Prime Minister FILLON met with H.E. Mr Umaru YAR’ADUA, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Mr FILLON, who was accompanied by four Cabinet Ministers, had a working session with H.E. Mr Goodluck JONATHAN, Vice president, and members of the Nigerian cabinet.
Following their meeting, several co-operation agreements were signed in their presence.
Under the auspices of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Prime Minister FILLON delivered a public lecture on “France and Nigeria in a global world”, at the ECOWAS Auditorium, on May 22, 2009, at 5pm,
Prime Minister FILLON held a press conference at the Hilton Hotel, on May 22, 2009.
Prime Minister FILLON and his delegation went to Port Harcourt on May 23, 2009, where he was welcomed by Rivers State Governor, H.E. Mr Rotimi AMAECHI. Accompanied by the Governor, Mr FILLON visited several sites operated by French companies, including the Akpo platform operated off shore by French company Total.
Christophe de MARGERIE, Total, the Prime Minister, and Rivers State Governor, M. Rotimi AMAECHI
Mr Francois FILLON’s visit to Cameroon (May 20 – 21, 2009), and Nigeria (May 22 – 23, 2009) was his very first official visit to sub-Saharan Africa since becoming Prime Minister in the administration of President Nicolas SARKOZY in 2007.
French Prime Minister
At ECOWAS Headquarters
ABUJA, May 22, 2009|]
Mr Minister, you have rightly pointed out that this is my first visit to Africa as Prime Minister, and I am truly pleased that it has brought me to Nigeria, this country that has a decisive role to play in the future of the entire African continent. And if I may say so, Mr Foreign Minister, just as the title of my book is «France can handle the truth» – not my words, but words borrowed from Pierre MENDES-FRANCE, a great French politician – in the same way it is up to you to show that Nigeria, or indeed Africa, can handle the truth. It is a great honour for me to be able to deliver this address at the headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States, of which Nigeria is current Chairman of Authority. May I also seize this opportunity to pay tribute to the President of the Commission, Dr. CHAMBAS.
Nigeria aspires to become the 20th world power in the next 20 years. And I daresay that France considers this to be a legitimate and justifiable ambition. Whilst Nigeria has immense assets, it is also true that it has equally immense challenges to overcome. With a large population, natural resources in enviable quantities, and above all, with the a will, the talents, and a robust national pride, Nigeria holds in its hands all the keys to a promising future. France believes in Nigeria, just as France believes in Africa, just as France has always believed in Africa. Over the decades, we have forged relations with the African continent that we consider inestimable, based as they are on friendship, respect and trust. Now these relations are constantly being enriched, and indeed being deepened today.
I have come here to Nigeria to contribute to raising the level of trust between our two countries. A few moments ago, I met your Vice-President, Dr. JONATHAN, and your President, Alhaji YAR’ADUA; in them I found forward-looking leaders, eager to develop mutually enriching relations with France. Tomorrow I shall be visiting Port Harcourt, where I intend to demonstrate that France stands by its Nigerian friends.
We French have confidence in the ability of Nigeria to overcome the immense challenges facing it. We have confidence in its ability to play a positive role in the region, and to be a driving force in Africa. We are confident that Nigeria can contribute to better regularisation of globalisation. Besides, at most international fora, it is obvious to all that France and Nigeria are often in agreement : on development, on democracy, on the fight against corruption and trafficking, on the necessary reform of the United Nations Organisation, on decisions to be taken to control the risks of climate change, to ensure food security, to defend cultural diversity, which is so important to us. On all these subjects, we have shown – and President YAR’ADUA’s visit to Paris confirmed this clearly – that we were on the same wavelength. What is more, during the visit of your President to Paris, our two Presidents agreed to forge a strategic partnership between France and Nigeria, which will be the framework for deepening our common approach to all the major issues that I just enumerated.
If it is true that there have been moments of difficult relations between France and Nigeria, in recent years our two countries have come to understand each other better. Trade has developed remarkably. Today Nigeria is the first economic partner of France in Sub-Saharan Africa. More than 120 French enterprises are present here in Nigeria, in key sectors such as infrastructure, electricity and services; and many of these enterprises are global leaders – I am thinking in particular of the TOTAL group. France is also the second biggest direct investor in Nigeria. And the AKPO site, which I shall be visiting tomorrow, is a clear illustration of the quality of these partnerships.
Furthermore, our two countries have cooperated successfully in promoting democracy and in the fight against corruption. Indeed we have just signed an agreement on judicial mutual assistance in criminal matters, because we wish to intensify our cooperation against organised crime and trafficking in persons, arms or drugs. France therefore considers Nigeria a major partner; not only economically but also politically. And we want to make our relations with Nigeria an example, and indeed a reference in Africa. We consider that your country is in the vanguard of what I would call this new Africa: this new Africa which is destined to take its rightful place in globalisation; this Africa which for the last decade has recorded sustained growth, thanks to the efforts made to improve economies, relieve debts, and strengthen the competitiveness of enterprises; this Africa where serious conflicts, sometimes lasting for years and years were finally resolved, and where, despite the persistence of very serious crises, civil wars seem to be diminishing; this Africa where governance has improved significantly, technology is spreading, as can be seen with the exponential growth of mobile telephony that no expert could have forecast; this Africa in which very ambitious infrastructure projects are being carried out - I am thinking of the West African Gas Pipeline, or the integration of the ECOWAS Regional electricity market.
We have confidence in the future of Africa, even if we know, of course, that there are still major challenges to overcome. But I believe that nobody can contest the fact that Africa today is stronger than it was ten years ago. I am convinced also that Africa has considerable assets for dealing with the global economic crisis for which it is in no way responsible. In the coming decades, the role of Africa in the world will progress automatically, not only because its economy is becoming stronger, but also because the proportion of its population in world population is increasing spectacularly. In any case these two phenomena are closely related, the latter being a decisive factor for the former. The population of Africa is going to double within the next generation. This means that in 2050, Africa will account for one-fifth of the world’s population compared to barely 14% today. For the first time, Africa’s population growth will no longer be a liability, but rather an asset for the African continent. For Nigeria, with nearly 150 million citizens, Mr Minister, this development is obviously a major historical fact.
Africa will therefore come into its own as a full-fledged actor in globalisation. Its nations will enjoy the benefits of the opening up at international level: economies of scale, dialogue among cultures, circulation of ideas and innovation, specialisation, complementarity. But at the same time, since African nations will also be more exposed to global upsets, Africa must play a more active role in regulating this world, which is obviously not very promising but actually very unstable.
The current economic crisis, which is the result of excesses, poorly perceived, poorly anticipated, poorly regulated excesses, did not start in Africa. Still, it is clear that Africa, like the rest of the world, will suffer its consequences in terms of lower prices of raw materials due to the economic downturn created by the financial crisis, reduced exports and drop in capital flow. Already this crisis is causing upsets in some African stock markets. All these phenomena, unfortunately, will have a direct impact on the lives of Africans.
It is true that the African continent is resisting relatively well; it resists well because it is not as exposed to the excesses of the global financial system than the United States or Europe. All the same we have a collective responsibility: to do everything possible everything to ensure that the crisis does not jeopardise the recent years of efforts that have yielded positive results in terms of growth and poverty alleviation.
The other global challenge that Africa has to address, together with us, is climate change. During the French presidency of the European Union at the end of 2008, the Union took some spectacular, difficult, courageous decisions. These decisions, I can tell you, were not so easy to accept, since European countries do not all have the same level of development, nor do they have the same energy production structure. It took much persuasion, much effort and much conviction for the 27 countries of the European Union to commit to reduce their green house gas emissions by 20% between now and 2020. But one of the reasons why we took this bold decision, despite the risks inherent in it, is our desire to ensure that the Copenhagen summit, coming up at the end of the year, at which all nations of the world have to assume their responsibilities with regard to global warming, be encouraged and strengthened by the European Union Agreement.
Make no mistake about it: the idea is by no means to overwhelm industries with more constraints during the crisis, but rather to draw lessons from this economic crisis to transform our production methods, and make sustainable development a tool of growth and employment. If the international community tackles global warming promptly and properly, it could become the opportunity to give a new impetus to world growth. This is where emerging countries in general, and Nigeria in particular, would play a vital role. Naturally I am thinking of the moral authority that Nigeria would have in these negotiations ; I am also thinking of practical issues such as gas flaring as a result of petroleum activities, which we all know causes atmospheric pollution and to which together we should find a lasting solution.
This global economic crisis is yet another challenge facing Africa, in addition to the quest for peace and security, the fight against poverty and pandemics, terrorism, particularly in the Sahel, maritime insecurity and increased banditry and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea as well as attacks against the oil installations, trafficking in arms, persons and drugs. All these challenges call for increased global cooperation, and more involvement of Africa.
Indeed, ladies and gentlemen, this is one of the key messages of the G20 Summit in London. With the European Union, we – and France was particularly mobilised in favour of this objective – raised an additional 1,100 billion dollars for countries experiencing difficulty as a result of the economic and financial crisis. We fought for a rebalance of world governance, in favour of emerging and poor countries. It is absurd that world governance arrangements are still based on a structure that dates back to the Second World War. Yet Africa has been transformed, the Iron Curtain has fallen, the Soviet Empire has disappeared, China has emerged, India is becoming one of the greatest powers of the world. How can we not see all these changes and reflect them in a new world governance structure?
The resources of the International Monetary Fund will be tripled; its concessionary loans to low income countries will be doubled. Multilateral development banks will commit an additional 100 billion dollars for projects in developing countries. Finally a massive initiative of several hundred million dollars will be launched to support international trade financing which has been weakened by the short supply of credit. These are the decisions taken at the historic London G20, the conclusions of which need to begin to be implemented now.
For its part, France has already announced that it will contribute close to 12 billion euros towards strengthening the IMF. We shall co-finance the Vulnerability Fund to be established by the World Bank, especially for infrastructure projects. Lastly, France will contribute 60 million euros to the international support mechanism for trade finance.
Ladies and gentlemen, all the G20 countries are and will be making efforts in a budgetary context which is obviously extremely difficult; difficult for everybody, with the risk that the tension weighing on the budgets of the most developed countries will lead to a reduction in development assistance. Well, I must say that France is determined, alongside OECD countries, to see to it that Africa is in no way penalised for these budget difficulties. For our part, we have decided – and we invite our partners to do the same – to maintain the same level of our development assistance, our own economic and financial difficulties notwithstanding.
In the circumstances, Nigeria, which is a giant in Africa, has a vital role to play. Nigeria should be present at international fora to address the issues I mentioned: the voice of Nigeria is critical and must be heard. What I mean is that generally speaking, we believe that the place of Africa at international fora is not strong enough. We are calling for Africa to be represented among the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
We say that the Security Council must be reformed to make it more representative, more legitimate and more efficient. Negotiations started, a long time ago unfortunately, and you know that there is a high risk of an impasse, as was the case in 2005. We believe that the best way to avoid stumbling again over this, as before, is to introduce interim reforms as we move gradually towards the objectives we have fixed. The British Prime Minister, Gordon BROWN, and the President of the French Republic, Nicolas SARKOZY, have proposed such reforms. If we are to embark on the process that will lead to their implementation, now is the time for African leaders to agree on their candidates at different international instances.
At the same time, we want the G8 to become the G14, within which there will be at least one representative of the African continent. Similarly, we want the G20 to give a more important place to Africa. Lastly, we called for Africa to be better represented on the Board of Directors of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Again, African countries need to agree on their representatives to occupy the third seat allocated to Africa at the World Bank. Of all the sectors where cooperation and regulation must be strengthened, one is of particular concern to Nigeria. I am speaking evidently about the oil sector. The variations in the barrel price that we had in 2008 have reached extraordinary, exaggerated, unreasonable proportions. And these phenomena, as you well know, have an extremely harmful impact on global economy, not only for importing countries, but also for producing countries: when the price of the barrel is too high, it slows down the entire economy, which, in a sense reduces the growth of the entire country. At the same time, it is unacceptable for oil prices to be too low to meet the needs of developing producing countries, and thus unable to guarantee the growth of those countries. This is why we believe in the need to envisage that a price regulation mechanism in order to prevent or at least limit extreme variations in the barrel price of oil.
Oil producing and oil importing countries should hold discussions to arrive at a reasonable price, acceptable to all, which may be adjusted periodically. I believe that this would be in the interest of all countries. The British Prime Minister, Gordon BROWN made this proposal, and was supported by France. We believe that it is in line with the spirit of a better organised economy, whereby producing countries in particular can plan their development effort around a lucrative price per barrel.
This does not apply only to hydrocarbons, but rather to all raw materials. Here again I believe that the voice of Nigeria would be very useful in crafting new regulations; in any case it is unimaginable that such regulations would stand a chance of succeeding without you, without your agreement, without your participation.
Ladies and gentlemen, if Africa wishes to increase its influence in globalisation, then it must speed up its regional integration. This obviously implies that the African Union and regional organisations, particularly the Economic Community of West African States should be strengthened. You know that France and Europe are fully ready to contribute to boosting integration; this is the spirit behind the signing of the partnership framework between Europe and Africa in Lisbon in December 2007.
We Europeans have not had a good track record in the matter of conflicts. For centuries and centuries, we have clashed, in the most violent, most brutal and sometimes most inhuman manner. But eventually, after the Second World War, we came to understand that the only way to establish peace among European nations was to organise economic cooperation among ourselves, and progressively integrate European economies. Well, I believe that you can learn from our experience, even if it cannot be totally transposed to other regions of the world. With the benefit of 50 years worth of hindsight, you can see all the mistakes we made and avoid them.
At any rate, the desire for peace, justice and prosperity is a universal aspiration. It is true that cultures are different, but nobody can deny that the universal aspiration for peace, justice, prosperity exists everywhere! It exists everywhere in the world! It exists, irrespective of the history and culture of the nation. This is why we place so much hope in the cooperation and regional integration process in Africa. It gives room for dialogue among cultures, and it is this dialogue among cultures that will result in peace building.
This is why we believe in the need to strengthen the role already played by your organisation, Mr President. And at this juncture I would like to pay special tribute to the founding fathers, in particular the Nigerian founding fathers, for their contributions to this great and beautiful collective and innovative edifice.
The obstacles to the integration process are numerous. Sometimes they are identical to those we experienced in Europe, even to those we still encounter. The West African region remains fragile. Economically, the fragmentation of the zone, lack of development infrastructure and still weak industrial fabric are sure handicaps. The quest for better convergence with the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) is equally indispensable for progress in regional integration.
Negotiations are ongoing between West Africa and the European Union for an economic partnership agreement. I note with pleasure that these negotiations are progressing. Our hope is that West Africa, with Nigeria, will be the first region in Africa to sign a definitive economic partnership agreement with the European Union by June 2009.
Regional integration in Africa will make you stronger: stronger to face new common threats – arms trafficking, drug trafficking, maritime insecurity, terrorism in the Sahel, human rights violations, food crises. It will enhance your analytical and reaction capacity, for example with the excellent initiative of the West Brigade of the African Standby Force. Given the nature of some of these issues, such as insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, you will need to develop synergies with neighbouring regional organisations.
In the face of all these challenges, ladies and gentlemen, France stands by Africa. We are Africa’s best partner, because we have deep-rooted links with it, because we have permanent links with it, because we are faithful to it. As I already said, Sub-Saharan Africa is and remains at the heart of our development policy. Today we are devoting more than 60% of our total budget effort to it. We are going to double the financial commitments of the French Development Agency in Sub-Saharan Africa, from 5 to 10 billion euros. We shall direct our development policy towards supporting the African private sector. We also wish to help Africa to deal with the challenge of reduced funding. This is why we are going to give special attention to providing financial instruments for African enterprises. The President of the French Republic has announced that we intend to support up to 2,000 enterprises, particularly small and medium enterprises, with a view to creating more than 30,000 jobs. Naturally, Nigeria will benefit from this effort through the French Development Agency.
Ladies and gentlemen, the longstanding relations between France and Africa is evolving in a very deep manner; henceforth we want it to be more frank and more transparent. In one word, we want to establish real partnership between France and Africa. We have decided to multilateralise our African policy: i.e. more of Europe on one side and more of African regional integration on the other.
In defence matters, we have decided to offer support to African countries in crisis management. Africa should become autonomous in defence matters. Yesterday in Yaoundé, I signed a new defence agreement with Cameroun; it is a public agreement to be voted by the French Parliament. On that occasion, I indicated that, France, like other developed countries, had no intention of maintaining forces in Africa indefinitely. Together we should look forward to the day when these forces could return to our respective countries: that day when all African countries would have taken over these missions directly, within the framework of the regional organisation. With regard to defence agreements, we wish to emphasise the new challenge of State action at sea. We desire to have positive partnerships with all Gulf of Guinea countries, with the Gulf of Guinea Commission – in which Nigeria is very actively involved – and with other regional organisations. We have just signed a memorandum of understanding with Nigeria on this.
In this new type of relationship, we wish to further support African youths. This is why we have decided to modernise our migration policy in the best interest of both France and Africa. And we have informed the President of Nigeria, this very day, that we wish to sign an agreement with Nigeria in this area.
Finally, we wish to facilitate the relationship between Nigeria and francophone countries of the region, not surprisingly. As in line with the desire of the Nigerian government, we are going to intensify our efforts in favour of learning the French language. There are already close to 15,000 Nigerians studying French in the French cultural network: this is a process that we shall develop.
Ladies and gentlemen, Nigeria is a major partner of France in securing the future of Africa. In this connection, I would like to commend once again the commitment of Nigeria to peace and stability. With nearly 6,000 men deployed to Darfur, Nigeria today is one of the greatest troop contributing countries to peace keeping operations. Mr Minister, your country plays a key role in crisis prevention and mediation in West Africa. Besides, it has set an impressive example in resolving its boundary problems with its neighbours. I am referring, of course, to the negotiations on the Bakassi peninsula, an example that Nigeria has offered to Africa: an example of respect for the rule of law, an example of the quest for mediation, which resulted in an agreement.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, let me say how pleased and honoured I am to have been able to express myself this evening before you, and to share with you some of my thoughts on the relations between France and Nigeria, and above all, on the evolution of Africa, of which Nigeria is an example. I come in the name of my country, to express to Nigerian leaders, and to all its citizens, our admiration, our friendship, and out hope to see the relations between our two countries develop further. I believe that together we can contribute to a better Africa, and thus to a better world.
Long live Africa! Long live Nigeria ! Long live France !