FRENCH FOREIGN TRADE MINISTER IN NIGERIA...
Minister of State for Foreign Trade
In Nigeria (October 7 – 8, 2008)
Mrs Anne-Marie IDRAC, French Minister of State for Foreign Trade, paid an official visit to Nigeria on October 7 and 8, 2008. She was in Lagos on the first day and in Abuja on the 8th.
In Lagos, the Minister met with the French and Nigerian business communities, and visited Lagos port facilities. In Abuja, she met with high officials, including Vice President, M. Goodluck JONATHAN, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding pertaining to co-operation in the field of electricity with Hon Minister of State Energy (power), Mrs Fatima Balaraba IBRAHIM.
This visit came in the wake of the official visit of President Umaru Musa YAR’ADUA to France on June 12, 2008, and the adoption by both countries, during that visit, of a strategic partnership. The latter document paves the way to furthering co-operation in a large scope of sectors, including the power sector, a top priority in President YAR’ADUA’s 7-point agenda.
Mrs Anne-Marie IDRAC’s visit to Nigeria was the first one by a French Minister since Minister Christine LAGARDE’s in November 2005.
During her visit, Nigerian medias were invited to cover the two following events on Wednesday, October 8, 2008, in Abuja :
at 3pm, Mrs IDRAC presided over the ceremony of the laying of the first stone of Abuja’s new French school, which is to open for the next school year, on September 2009.
With 30 kids some 10 years ago and about 300 today, the French school “Marcel PAGNOL” bears testimony both to the dynamism of the Nigerian capital and the increasing presence of the French and the French-speaking communities in the Federal Capital Territory.
The ceremony unfolded as follows :
*speech by the Ambassador of France, HE M Jean-Michel DUMOND,
*unveiling of a plaque and laying down of the school’s first stone by the Minister and the Ambassador
*speech by Mrs IDRAC, Minister of State for Foreign Trade
To get there : Ahmadu Bello Way, then Abdulsalami Abubakar Road. Then take right onto Olapido Diya Road. Turn on the second street to the left, as if going to Prince and Princess Estate. Leave the estate to your left. Keep going for 500 meters. The plot of the new French school is there, right after the entrance to the British Nigeria Academy.
at 5pm, Mrs IDRAC will sign a MoU on electricity along with Hon Minister of State for Energy (power), Mrs Fatima IBRAHIM, in the Ministry’s premises (NNPC Towers)
The ceremony will unfold as follows :
*signing of the MoU
*short speeches by the signatories
*exchange with present journalists
Anne-Maris IDRAC’s biography
On 19 March 2008, President Nicolas Sarkozy appointed Mrs Idrac Minister of State for Foreign Trade in the government of François Fillon.
Anne-Marie Idrac was born in Saint-Brieuc in 1951. After studying at the Institute of Political Studies (IEP) and the Paris Law School, she got a degree from the French Senior Civil Service School (ENA, 1974).
Following an initial assignment in the Economic and International Affairs Department of the Ministry of Infrastructure, where she was responsible in particular for construction and public works exports, Mrs Idrac devoted most of her career as administrateur civil (senior executive) to environmental, housing, town planning and transport affairs.
As Managing Director of the Etablissement Public d’Aménagement de Cergy-Pointoise from 1990 to 1993, she was highly instrumental in the founding of the University of Cergy.
She then served as Director of Ground Transport from 1993 to 1995, just when ground transport across Europe was experiencing major shifts. As a woman considered representative of civil society, Mrs Idrac was appointed Minister of State for Transport, a position she held from May 1995 until June 1997 in the two governments headed by Prime Minister Alain Juppé.
Elected MP for the Yvelines département in 1997 and 2002, and Regional Councillor for the Ile-de-France region in 1998 on the UDF ticket, Mrs Idrac resigned from all her political positions and duties when she was named Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer of the RATP, the Paris public transit authority, on 25 September 2002. A particularly noteworthy development during her term of office was that the RATP acquired international scope, signing contracts in South Africa, Casablanca, Morocco, and Florence, Italy.
On 12 July 2006, Mrs Idrac took over from Louis Gallois, who moved on to EADS, as Chairwoman of the SNCF, a position she held until 21 February 2008. The State rail company’s results in 2007 should be seen as a historic achievement. Under Ms Idrac’s leadership, the SNCF successfully confronted the challenge of competition and international reach through its subsidiaries Géodis, Kéolis and Systra. High-speed train contracts were also signed in Argentina and Morocco.
What is the purpose of your visit to Nigeria?
My purpose is to demonstrate that France has no intention of turning away from Africa. We aim on the contrary to be the continent’s most important partner.
Although France and Nigeria lack a common language, history and culture, we have no trouble understanding each other. Because there are no preconceptions, relations between our two countries are exemplary, balanced, transparent and unselfconscious, as President Yar’Adua’s official visit to Paris last June made very clear. On that occasion, our two countries signed a strategic partnership agreement providing for ongoing political dialogue and greater economic, cultural, technical and judicial cooperation.
In addition, France has done a good deal to help reduce Nigeria’s debt burden, as part of an effort to support your country’s transition to democracy. Among the 18 billion dollars debt cancelled by Paris Club countries in 2005, 6 billion were cancelled by France.
Nigeria is an African giant that France simply can’t ignore. So I will be going to Lagos and Abuja to underscore the premium that France and President Nicolas Sarkozy place on strengthening the ties between our two countries.
How would you describe France’s trade relations with Africa in general, and with Nigeria in particular?
In the first half of 2008, Nigeria returned to its position as France’s number one partner in sub-Saharan Africa, with trade 20 percent higher than in 2007.
French exports to Nigeria, totaling €1.1 billion in 2007, chiefly involved capital goods for use in large-scale infrastructure programs (especially in oil and gas, electric power and telecommunications industries).
Nigerian exports to France, which came to €1.3 billion in 2007, chiefly involved hydrocarbon sales. Nigeria is one of our largest crude oil suppliers in Africa.
So French-Nigerian trade is highly strategic for both countries. It means energy supply security for France, and infrastructure development for Nigeria.
Most European countries have significant oil interests in Nigeria. Is there some other sector in which France has a particularly strong presence?
Nearly 120 French companies are present in Nigeria, operating in all business areas. Total is obviously a major force, since it carries out 10 percent of its worldwide oil production there and is the number one fuel distributor in the country.
In the sector of oil services, global companies like Technip and Nexans have been operating for many years. France prides itself for also having very dynamic SMEs such as Prezioso and Ponticelli.
A number of French firms operate in the non-oil industry as well, such as Lafarge, which is the country’s second biggest cement maker.
In the area of infrastructure, Alstom, Schneider Electric, RTE and Areva are all playing a part in raising local electric power capacity. Alcatel is involved with creating the national GSM network, while Sagem is producing high-security national ID cards.
And lastly, French companies are well represented in services. Accor is expanding its hotel capacity, Air France-KLM is the number one carrier for international freight delivery, and Bolloré is one of the leading transport and logistics providers in the country.
In other words, France has a major presence in Nigeria, particularly in sectors that are key to the country’s development.
Although France and Nigeria are long-standing trading allies, the language barrier can stand in the way of business. What are you doing to remove it?
While large corporations have no communication problems in their international operations, too many small and medium-sized businesses experience slower expansion abroad because of their inadequate foreign language skills.
For that reason, we have moved to place greater emphasis on English language instruction, starting right in elementary school. As of next summer, French school children can enroll in free language programs during the summer vacation period.
At the same time, in many of the countries I have visited, I sense a genuine desire to learn French. Moreover, the strategic partnership agreement signed by our two countries last June calls for stepped-up cultural cooperation, including more extensive French language instruction in Nigeria. I will only mention the 3 million Euros agreement signed between France and Nigeria a few months ago in Abuja in order to support the training of teachers of French over the next 7 years.
Infrastructure in rural areas is a problem facing most countries in Africa. As someone who has been responsible for rural development, would you have any relevant advice for Nigerian political leaders?
Infrastructure development is a crucial issue, because it increases trade and the willingness of foreign companies to get involved in the area. So when I am in Lagos and Abuja, I will reiterate President Sarkozy’s commitment to assist Nigeria in its drive to modernization and economic and social development by building more modern infrastructure.
The French-Nigerian strategic partnership shows that our two countries are determined to step up our cooperation, particularly in the energy sector, which is vital to the development of Nigeria. French companies have a worldwide reputation for know-how in the field of infrastructure, and we will be right there beside you to help you meet that challenge.
The Minister, accompanied by HE M Jean-Michel DUMOND, and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, M. Goke ADEGOROYE, laid the first stone of the new French school...
- Foreign trade Minister, Mrs Anne-Marie IDRAC, withe the kids of French school "Marcel Pagnol"
- The Minister with Jean-Philippe BOLOT, member of the school’s management committee
What they said...
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN TRADE
(October 8, 2008)
I am very happy to be with you for this laying ceremony of the first stone of the new French school.
I would like to thank all those who made this event possible : first, the parents, who formed an association able to bear this ambitious project all the way to its completion, thus contributing to the influence of France in Nigeria. Second, the companies, which supported the project financially : Bouygues, ITB (Mr Zogheib), Total, the Zeitune family. Last but not least, the management committee and the leadership of the school, which initiated the project.
Figures that you mentioned, Mister Ambassador, on the increase in the number of pupils, and the figures I could collect through my discussions last night are all going in the same direction : the evolution of Abuja, which is getting denser by the day, makes it the great capital, where political decisions are made, but also where business is flourishing.
My fellow citizens, who have been expatriated for long, you know the important role played by a French school abroad, in Nigeria in particular, giant within the region, English-speaking, with more than 140 million inhabitants, 200 tomorrow, and where our country remains not known enough.
A French school abroad gives the assurance to French companies that they can send their personnel with their families in good conditions. It is for these companies a condition for their success abroad. It can be considered as a crucial help of the French State to them. A school is also a way to make our country better known and understood, it’s the appropriate venue for sharing with other cultures, other religions etc I noticed in your speech, Mister Ambassador, that, in the present school, 4 kids out of 5 are not French, and that those non-French are coming from 29 different countries.
Finally, this school will be a craddle of education, which will contribute to the training of future leaders. I am sure that these leaders, our partners of tomorrow, will not forget it.
You said that, by 2015, there will be on this piece of land today covered by the bush, a whole education complex, going from primary school to high school, able to accommodate more than 500 pupils. I am very exited at this prospect and I encourage you to go on in this direction.
AMBASSADOR OF FRANCE TO NIGERIA
(October 8, 2008)
Madam Minister, I am truly delighted to welcome you, with the president of the management committee of the school, on this piece of land, today covered by the vegetation, where the new French school will be located as soon as September 2009 for the next school year.
This first stone that you are about to lay down, Madam Minister, is the consequence of a very fast increase in the number of pupils, making the present premises too small. 7 pupils only when “Ecole Marcel Pagnol” opened in 1998, 271 for the 2008-2009 school year, spread in 15 classes, from kindergarden up to high school.
It is also the result of the determination of our country to be present in Abuja, the Capital city of the most populated country of the continent, with which our trade relations keep growing. As you know, Nigeria became during the second semester of 2008 the first trading partner of France in sub-Saharan Africa. This determination and the spirit of openness that goes with it explain that today, out of 5 pupils at the French school, one is Nigerian, one is French, and the three others come from the 28 other nationalities represented at “Marcel Pagnol”.
The ambition of this new school is to provide the whole range of teachings from kindergarden to high school for 500 students in the next 5 to 6 years.
This first stone, Madam Minister, is also a strong signal from our government that it fully supports the development of the French presence in Nigeria. This achievement is examplary. Thanks to the parents’ motivation, who agreed on the increase of tuition fees in order to contribute to the financing of the project. Thanks to the companies, which have clearly understood the benefit of this operation. Thanks also to the financial involvement of the French State. Thanks also to the dynamism of the Director and a team of people, who have invested a lot of energy in this project.
I would like to invite you, Madam Minister, to come back to this very place in one year, on September 2, 2009 precisely, to inaugurate the new premises.
Let me invite you to proceed with the laying of the first stone and the unveiling of a plaque, which says : “On October 8, 2008, Mrs Anne-Marie IDRAC, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, laid down the first stone of the new French school in Abuja”.
- Permanent Secretary Goke ADEGOROYE, Minister Anne-Marie IDRAC and Ambassador Jean-Michel DUMOND unveil the plaque
The plaque says : "On October 8, 2008, Mrs Anne-Marie IDRAC, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, laid the first stone of the new French school in Abuja".
During a reception at the residence of the Ambassador of France, Foreign trade Minister, Mrs Anne-Marie IDRAC, could have talks with several Nigerian officials and personalities...
- Prince Adetokunbo, Minister of Culture and Tourism, with the Minister
- Former OPEC Secretary General and Minister, M. Rilwanu LUKMAN, with the Minister
Exchange of gifts...
- Nigerian Minister of State Energy (power), Mrs Fatima IBRAHIM, HE M Jean-Michel DUMOND, French Minister of State for Foreign trade, Mrs Anne-Marie IDRAC
Minister IDRAC addresses the audience...
- Senate Majority leader, Hon Taslin FOLARIN, with the Ambassador