France is in no way being driven out of Africa," pleaded French Foreign Trade Minister Olivier Becht on Wednesday ahead of a trip to Nigeria, calling on French companies to continue and step up their investments on the continent.
"Contrary to what some media outlets, and social networks in particular, are saying, France is absolutely not being driven out of Africa, and we're not in decline at all," Mr. Becht assured before leaving for Lagos.
Nigeria is "France's leading trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa" and "around 100 French companies" are present there, according to the Ministry.
Olivier Becht will take part in the signing of "several contracts" during his two-day trip, accompanied by a dozen SMEs.
"France is at the side of Africans to invest in all areas", said Mr. Becht, referring in particular to the development of mobility, education and health infrastructures.
"French companies must continue to be present and invest on the continent," he maintained. "It's good for the African continent, for African countries, and above all it's good for the French economy."
The development of French SMEs "goes through the international box", he felt.
At a time when the French army has been forced to withdraw from Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, "France's influence today, like that of many other powers, goes through the economy", underlined Mr. Becht.
In the face of China and Russia, which are extending their influence on the continent, France "has strong arguments", according to the Minister.
"We make some of the best products in the world", "which meet environmental standards", "which take account of local populations" and "which seek to create added value", he explained. "And I don't think that's always the case with Chinese companies or Russian companies", he added.