Over the years, there have been efforts to renew Africa-France relations. President Emmanuel Macron made this a key priority for his Presidency when he assumed office in 2017.
In many Francophone African countries, there is some disillusionment on how France has not managed to fully change the course and keep its promises made by its leader at Ouagadougou in 2017. He had promised to renew relations and overhaul France’s relations with the entire continent.
Yes, many commitments have been made by France in the support of Africa’s entrepreneurship ecosystem. Some of these include a €130 million (R2.7 billion) investment in Digital Africa, launched by the president to support Africa’s digital start-ups, which I had the opportunity to have co-chaired for one year; the other was a Choose Africa initiative, which is a €2.5bn commitment to finance and support African start-ups, micro-enterprises and SMEs.
One billion euros will be invested as equity in African start-ups, micro-enterprises and SMEs, while €1.5bn will be earmarked to facilitate access to credit for small and medium enterprises. It was envisaged that 10 000 SMMEs in Africa would benefit from the initiative.
The key will be to diagnose and ascertain whether all the initiatives achieved their objectives and targets. If they didn’t, one has to find out why and how efforts can be put in place to ensure these are achieved.
A few days ago, at 22 On Sloane, we hosted, the French Minister of Foreign Trade and Investments Olivier Becht who launched an Africa-France entrepreneurial community. The engagement, with more than 100 French and South African members, focused on how to build strong economic links between the two countries.
As Becht said: “A partnership based on common values, on shared commitments to the promotion of an international rules-based order and on collective action for a sustainable and inclusive development.”
In launching the Africa-France entrepreneurs’ community, he acknowledged the role South Africa plays in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, having been in the top four among African countries by value invested through private equity and venture capital investment, just behind Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya.
In 2022, at the South Africa Investment summit, hosted by President Cyril Ramaphosa, French companies committed a R50bn investment in sectors such as energy, health, tourism, mobility, retail, manufacturing and the agro-industry.
Becht believes that a better understanding of the South African market could be mutually beneficial to creating new business opportunities for South African and French companies, while fostering job creation and diversified growth in South Africa.
Yet, with all this mind, more needs to be done. This also goes for the commitment made to Africa’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and to what extent this has positively impacted entrepreneurs on the ground and achieved its targets.
The Africa-France entrepreneur’s community the minister launched aims to promote and strengthen a “win-win” dynamic between Africa and France, while exploring business improvement solutions.
Kizito Okechukwu is the executive head of 22 On Sloane, Africa’s largest start-up campus; co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network Africa.