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France-Africa Summit Begins Monday

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, welcomes Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso upon his arrival at the Elysee Palace, 26 Apr 2020 (file)

A top official of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has called on African leaders to seek greater developmental partnership ahead of the Africa-France summit that begins in Nice Monday.

Sudir Chukun, senior advisor to the Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD, said the summit will be a platform for a new and pragmatic relationship between France and Africa.

“The summit should be viewed, in my view, as a work in progress because, after (Mr.) Sarkozy came to power, he tried many things including re-doing the way France deals with Africa. He has been dealing with Africa as a whole…instead of going on a personal country basis (like before). He has improved some commercial developing ties with countries like South Africa and other regions,” he said.

Local media report that at least 40 African heads of states and governments will be participating in Monday’s summit, which analysts expect to deepen economic ties between Africa and France.

President Sarkozy had vowed to improve ties with Africa and change what he described as paternalism, hand-outs and dependency.

But, skeptics say the summit is unlikely to improve or change existing relations that have largely depended on Africa’s natural resources despite President Nicholas Sarkozy’s pronouncement.

Chukun said African leaders should seek more partnership with France.

“For the African side, they should view it in terms of a genuine partnership, which is definitely one-sided. And, even investment in resource sector should be made wisely, most probably around joint ventures, transfer of technology, (and) it should be done in a transparent (way) and observing all the corporate governance rules,” Chukun said.

France has often come under criticism for being only interested in Africa’s natural resources and has remained quiet despite human rights violations - a charge President Sarkozy’s government denies.

Chukun said the summit will be helpful to African countries, since he said the government wields influence on French companies operating in Africa.

“Most of the major French companies have French government participation. So, a clear-cut genuine shift from the political leadership from France will (impact) the way most French companies engage in Africa,” Chukun said.

Monday’s summit also coincides with the 50th independence anniversary of several former French colonies.