Following the emergence of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as Nigeria newly elected President, France government under the leadership of French Minister of State for Development, Francophonie and International Partnerships, Mrs Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, has said her country and Nigerian government are working on the need to strengthen bilateral and trilateral relationships.
In this piece, Janefrances Chibuzor observes that coastal lines along Lagos State came alive with activities, few days after Nigeria celebrated its Presidential Inauguration. The event attracted guests from across the country and abroad.
The relationships, she said are between France and Nigeria with emphasis on agriculture, culture and security, focusing on enhancing the living standard of youths within three Nigeria States.
Zacharopoulou, who spoke at the event in Lagos, stressed the importance of Nigeria and France partnership, as it will help in exchanging of ideas and opinions on a crucial subject for inclusive growth across some Nigerian states such as Abuja, Kwara and Lagos.
Zacharopoulou, during the event which had brought together eminent Nigerian and French experts, noted the France President, Emmanuel Macron, historic visit to Nigeria about half a decade ago brought a great acceleration to the partnership between the two countries.
According to her, development of such magnitude will expose the people to better understanding of the reality every Nigerian is facing.
Zacharopoulou said ‘this is important moment of the country with the emergence of a new President. President Macron told me to represent him here in Nigeria, due to the partnership that exists between the two countries, we face common challenges and we are convinced that we have to work together to get a consolation.
Continuing, “over the last five days, I had the honor to visit three cities here in Nigeria, which include Abuja , Ilorin and Lagos.”
Speaking with the journalists on Thursday, she noted that during the time, she had successfully met as well discussed with various national workers, authorities and industries stakeholders. In addition, she had notably exchanged ideas with many actors in the societies, business men, leaders, innovators. “And there is a great energy and innovation in this nation, she stated.”
“They have the ability to work and it’s the same with us. France does not just use partners, we go where they want to work with us and where we share the same interest.”
Also, as a European Union representative during the Nigeria 2023 presidential inauguration said ‘she met with Tinubu.’
‘And we had a short exchange with the president. We agreed, we had a strong political partnership and also many challenges, we have to fight climate change, also it’s time to reinforce our diplomatic ties particularly, we know that your country is a very vital partners concerning global challenges and of course, we discussed on our cooperation of peace and stability in this region.’
“We know, they are many francophonie countries in this region and neighbours, we are waiting from president Tinubu call, we are ready to work together.”
“Also, I had the honor to meet the president of The Economic Community of West African States Commission, ECOWAS, H.E. Dr. Omar Alieu Touray, we had a very fruitful discussion and we discussed of course on regional security and development.”
In addition to this, ‘we signed to finance a total of 20 million, providing ECOWAS in the face if agriculture an providing Food safety in the region.’
Explaining further, “I had a ministerial visit in Ilorin, I had the pleasure to meet the Governor, Mr. Abdulraham Razaqka and also local authorities and we signed two cooperation between France and the state of Kwara on agriculture. So, we worked on the promotion of the language, it’s very important for the Nigeria people to have access to the French language and after which, the third stop is here in Lagos.”
Earlier in her statement, she said “In Lagos, we will share the same vision in economic and commercial partnership. You are aware that Nigeria is our first trading partners in sub Saharan Africa and trade exchange is amounting to 4.2 billion euros in 2022, there are around 80 French firms in Nigeria and we want to do more. We want to diversify our economic presence in the country and we want to attract more French firms to Nigeria.”
“I met the deputy governor of Lagos and we sat to discuss the promotion of the French language with a program for the public schools and at the same time yesterday, one of the major reasons of visiting this country is our partnership with the film and creative industry, it’s well known in this country, it’s a country of creativity, of music, of films, of innovations, of arts and we know that culture, can be a creation for job opportunities and development, it’s a policy for more than many years.
We can see this country is very important and here in Nigeria, we have wide network of Alliance Française, we have ten across Nigeria.
I met many actors of the cultural sector and also startups of creativity industry and I announced the creation of every founder to support with a quarter of their proceeds to support fashion and design and this means France will invest 1.2 million euros to support Nigeria entrepreneurs, of course we are very proud to do it we also happy to sign a new partnership for the promotion of the French language.
Meanwhile, the event, which started at Radisson Blu, Ikoyi took the participants through Lagos costal line to visit projects, supported by Agence Française De Development, AFD, in Lagos State Waterways Authority.
She said, ‘One of the France Agencies, AFD has contributed almost three billion euros since 2010 to the development of Nigeria and thanks to AFD contribution, two million people have access to drinking water in Nigerian, more than 20000 kilo meter of rural roads have been rehabilitated , more than 1.8 million people benefit from better power supply services. So, we have many things to do together, we believe in this country and we believe, that we can create many things together.’
During the inauguration day, a lot of delegation came to the country for this special day and we were received very briefly, we had dialogue, but the message was that we are partners with Nigeria and I was just on the line with the ministers from the EU countries to represent all the countries.
For France, we show that the relationship is very important and we exchange briefly and we told them we had a lot of challenge as I said before, the bilateral and trilateral, which raises the question of regional security, the climate change and many others.
We had a lot of exchange with the president that is totally known, regarding the BUA refinery at Akwaibom State, the French government is not involved financially, the company is involved with the design, feasibility studies and others.
“I don’t know where the construction of the refinery is taking place, but I think it’s a very great project, just as the opening of the Dangote refinery here in Lekki is a game changer for Nigeria, because Nigeria is importing too much refined petroleum products. I think it’s a good thing for the Nigeria people and the Nigeria economy to refined locally, the country were importing fuel at the highest price in the market and exporting crude and all that, all this project will guarantee Nigeria sovereignty on its energy and also in agriculture.
On what can be done to help democracy in Nigeria, ‘she said First of all, it’s not for us to explain what, for each country has to do. We are not here to give lessons to anybody and each country has a pathway to democracy, so what I can say as I visit and I work with the Africa continent, I was very happy on Monday and I was there during the inauguration day and the exiting president and incoming president together and it was for me a big example for democracy.’
On security and the Nigeria porous border, she said “we have cooperation with Nigeria and we hope, we can strengthen the cooperation, regarding the security and but also working with your neighbours is our aim and this is the vision of President Macron.”
Explaining on the France partnership with the African countries, she added ‘The France partnership with the Africa Countries is to build their local capacity and to support national strategies. This is the same for all African countries, that is why I always said, we are here to support them if they want, we can support them globally, not only the security, but also in the area of development, so this is how we work with countries, we work like France and also the same time work like a member of EU, we support the initiative of the EU for the west African countries.’
For instance, “I visited the countries of Gulf Guinea and we discuss about the fight against terrorist, it’s not only a fight of one country, but world-wide, we were there to support, but also help them in their equipment and training of their people and we trained more than 1000 people,” she added.