The visit this week of the President of France, Emmanuel Macron was swift and of course, when such high profile dignitaries visit, there are expected outcomes in trade, economics and in our case security.
France, being a world power and former colonial rulers of all our neighbours exerts tremendous influence in the African region and West and Central Africa in particular. Thus, their influence is enormous and the days and months ahead will show to what extent this visit will assist Nigeria in her areas of need. This must be what informed the analysis of our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who revealed that President Macron will boost the fight against insurgency in the country and the nation’s economy. Onyeama said Macron’s visit will assist in getting greater United Nations, UN financial involvement in the fight against insurgency in the region.
The visit, which is historical as it marks the first formal meeting between Macron and President Muhammadu Buhari comes with a fresh French investment in the country, particularly in Ogun state. This investment will create 150,000 jobs. France will also invest in Lagos and Kano states. These announcements will focus on infrastructure upgrade, agriculture and manufacturing. Furthermore, Macron’s visit will increase ties and strengthen trade and cultural relations between France and Nigeria.
With Nigeria passing through serious security challenges, every ounce of support will be appreciated. And a country which wields tremendous influence in our region stands a good stead in sharing intelligence, improving security architecture and cooperation. As at today, France is involved in the fight against insurgency with five African countries known as the G5 Sahel and centred on Mali, dealing with Al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups in the Sahel.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs maintained that “they are also going to be looking at the complementarity of the two security groups; that is, the G5 in the Sahel and of course, the Multinational Joint Task Force that we have, fighting Boko Haram and how those two can work together, share intelligence and other support,” Onyeama added.
Further, funding the fight against insurgency is also of concern. Although the French is already assisting in this regard, Macron’s visit is expected to boost and pile pressure on the global body, the United Nations to heed requests for their financial involvement.
Onyeama disclosed that “of course, this is a big challenge. Some of the big contributors to the UN are not so keen for the UN to be so involved financially. We are looking also to the support of the French in getting the United Nations to help. So, that is what they are bringing, that we have a strong ally in the demand for greater UN financial involvement in tackling terrorism in the West African Sahel region,” he concluded.
Part of the investments that France will be making will be in the energy cum environment subsector. Already, there is going to be a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU signed with French Energy and Environmental companies. It is an environmental project in Ogun state.
The Ogun state government is going to be providing land and it is over a thousand hectares of land to be made available.
This environment investment will focus on deforestation. A lot of degradation had taken place so the need to refocus and get our forests back is important. It is about seven per cent now of what it used to be. So, this project is looking at reforestation. To this end, French companies with the competence will bring their know-how to bear in developing timber, pulp and other agricultural products that will in turn, create about 150,000 jobs.
It is equally refreshing that culturally, the French president paid a visit to the New Afrika Shrine located in Ikeja, Lagos. The shrine, which is owned by Femi Anikulapo-Kuti is a place of undiluted Afro beat music made popular by Femi’s legendary father, Fela. The French President by that visit has globalised (perhaps) the greatest cultural ambassador that Nigeria has ever had- Afro beat music! This is testament to the tenacity that has seen Femi and his siblings sustain the legacy of their prodigious late dad. The French leader has by that visit sold us a tip in cultural identity and salesmanship. We must not let this opportunity pass. It will be to the eternal glory of Nigeria, to tap into this endorsement to elevate not just Fela’s music but music and other art forms as veritable tools for social interaction, cultural renaissance and economic progress.