“I am a strong believer of ECOWAS and market access approach ,” says President Emmanuel Macron of France during his visit to Nigeria early this month. He explained that “it is about time ECOWAS region goes for more integration; market access and possibly a sort of common currency.”
Addressing the audience in Lagos where he launched N500 billion programme to boost innovation initiative in the private sector, Macron explained that the unique way to succeed is to have strong private sector as the only source of inclusive growth in Nigeria.
This new narrative is to say Africa is the one to decide for Africa; to explain about Africa and to create its own model of entrepreneurship with its own culture and to explain to the rest of the world, and not just to be part of globalization, with adjustments were always made despite the people. So this new narrative is to be built now. And I do believe it is your responsibilities. And I do believe it is good for Africa and it is good for France because if Africa doesn’t succeed, France and Europe will never succeed on the long, for two simple logical reasons:
Europe is not an island, and this migration crisis, which we can reverse in few months, is exactly due to the fact that we have a common destiny. The second is the fact that we have these important Africans in Diaspora: in France and in the rest of Europe. And they can not live and develop themselves and succeed in France and in Europe if in their countries, people don’t succeed.
One, you are young, and you want to develop. Innovation is just by chance. Smart people, when they are in charge, are obsessed by innovation because they want to bring down success. But youth players, young people should be obsessed with innovation because this is the way to success. This is the only way, when you are not a player, not an insider, to enter into this game and to succeed in it, to disrupt the insider and to become part of the game. Innovation is just how relevant or irrelevant some secrets to succeed; make your life better and the lives of your family and the people around you better. And there is always no card for innovation except the one you have in your mind. There is no card! Innovation is a personal thing, all about how to create and at the same time disrupt activity when it does not make sense.
If I am here today, it is just because I want you to take a lot of sense, and I found out how to innovate and take my risks in political life. I never asked for permission to do so. And guess what? When I solicited advice from those inside this game, the first advice I got was that ‘you should wait a little bit! Wait a little bit! At some point, it would be for you!’ But not now! Never follow this kind of advice.
So if you want to do it; If you want to change the world; if you want to change your country, if you believe in innovation, in your project, just make it feasible, just create, just daring and just do it, right now. That is about innovation. And that’s part of the answers for this continent and for this country.
Yes! Part of the future will be rosy for young people through innovation. That is why we decided to launch the Digital Africa initiative, which means to create sort of African Platforms for digital, and not to explain to people; to make sure people know what they should do.
I mean, I am not the person with definitely the best possible idea for Nigerians or Lagos. You are the ones to have the right decisions; right ideas for your country; for what is good for your people and which kind of www can succeed; which kind of innovation can find its market. So Digital Africa is precisely this platform where we would connect people with ideas, with innovation to skills, because a lot of these things has to do with skills: how to accelerate, get access to market; get access to financing; being connected with other people with the same kind of ideas, improve your ideas with innovation and to success. I think it is good because that is the best way to work, the startups all over Africa
I want to work with investors, and precisely I want to work with large companies, with business entrepreneurs. I want to thank all the large companies in this room, coming from Nigeria; from France. Some of you may long to be here. I think this is important for me because these large corporate; these large French corporates, some of them may have been cooperating with you, But they can be part of this ecosystem as well. And be part precisely of how to finance and how to work and innovate with African startups and this new Digital Africa, because it is good for them as well; because it is how to reinvent their models, their brands in Africa. And it is good for you because it will provide a lot of opportunities for young people.
Part of the answers we are discussing for Africa is obviously about innovation and disruption. More broadly, private sector! Private sector is part of the answers because private sector can provide a better access to people. And when you want to get access to your responsibilities make your family happy, have a better life, you need the success; and you need the success of the private sector. I am a strong believer in the African private sector because I think the best way behind African business people
for African people, to change the continent and change the countries and to make it for people and not for foreign businesses, even if few people can make a profit with the private sector players.
I think the unique way to succeed is to have strong private sector, entrepreneurs, being developed here because this is the only way to have inclusive growth, which means you will have enough of growth, sustainable growth for entrepreneurs to build middle classes in different countries. These middle classes will buy enough products which will be enough for all the African players to develop their businesses and create new businesses. This is the only way to have sustainable political life. Because when people get access to jobs, to better life, their political life is totally different because the society, all societies will be better for it.And it is part of African success.
That is is why we launched an initiative for African private sector , which is a fact that it decided to invest one billion Euros which is N500 billion on the continent in the African private sector through the French Development Agency (FDA) as part of Digital Africa initiative and different French businesses want to get a lot of players, a lot of African and European icons, business players to build into that fund, to develop, leverage and accelerate private sector in Africa. I believe in innovation in the private sector.
ECOWAS common currency
I am a strong believer of ECOWAS and market access approach. You see,Nigeria is a big champion in ECOWAS. A sizeable number of your neighbours have to work and make business in English.For you to work and make business in French, you have to make regional integration real. I do believe in ECOWAS, free trade; free market; free regulation and much more integration.
I am for regional integration. It is about time we go for more integration; market access and possibly a sort of common currency zone in the region. We have to change the rules, we have to accept this idea for a lot of countries’ integration in their own fashion. To achieve market access, you need stability; you need framework… What African Union signed in March in Kigali, to launch its own initiative for free trade, is a good one.
Europe lived three years ago, a first wave of immigration, coming from Syria, Afghanistan and Libya with a lot of people leaving their countries because of war and they get asylum in Europe. It created a lot of tension because it was scary to get more than one million people arriving in Europe. And they have been protecting that. That pressure, and it created some tension like, you couldn’t describe it. Now what we see and what we are experiencing is a new wave of immigration, coming largely through Libya from Africa, and it is no more coming through Morocco and Spain from Africa. Let me make two positions. First, migration into Africa and Europe is not brand new, people have been coming from everywhere, for the gates which bring migration into our continents. And our job is to integrate people but where we have been failing a little bit is because of a lack of policy on minority and what I am going to discuss with a lot of some private sectors, we didn’t sufficiently integrate the Africans in Diaspora and the new people arriving in France in its economy. But for the gate in my country, we have migration coming from Africa. It is not new; it is not a crisis. And existing in Diaspora is made by our common history and the fact that there is a common language with a lot of countries in Africa and a lot of common families.
That is the first distinction. So let’s stop this crazy idea that migration in its own is a bad idea or that it is just a crisis. It is a global phenomenon; it has always been existing.
The second point is that when you speak about migration, I don’t mince my words. First we speak about people; people going through a lot of places, through the desert or through the Mediterranean Sea, losing some lives, due to political situations. spending months or not to say years in camps, being exploited by their keepers. But we have distinctions. Some of these people are eligible to residing because they are in war in their countries. And they are at risk because of their political ideas or because of their religion. And these ones have to be protected in Europe because it is part of my constitution in France. So no question, these people would always be welcome and protected because of the asylum laws. And on the other hand, there are lots of people leaving their countries, and taking all sorts of risks, for economic reasons because of lack of economic perspectives and opportunities. And these people can not be accepted at least all of them, even some of them where it is sustainable for their economy or for their countries. You cannot be protected because you come from a country in peace.