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Saturday, December 9, 2023

President Tinubu should be wary of France

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By Tony Ademiluyi

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu made his first official visit as Nigeria’s President to France where he was between June 20th 2023 and June 24th 2023. He attended the summit on New Global Financing Pact in Paris, France’ capital.

At the time Tinubu was attending the historic summit, two masterstrokes had been achieved in Nigeria – the removal of fuel subsidy and the unification of the country’s exchange rates.

Oche Egwa in an op-ed in PM News had this to say about this highly strategic meeting where he wrote: “The two decisions taken on the nation’s economy made President Tinubu a toast of world leaders and financial institutions at the Summit. The ovation by economic and financial experts for the courageous steps revealed more for the future, with the World Bank projecting, after the meeting in Paris, that Nigeria will save about $3.9 trillion in 2023, and N21 trillion between 2023 to 2025.

The seriousness and quick engagement of critical stakeholders in the economy, like trade unions, oil marketers, depot dealers, the NNPC Ltd by the administration was also taken by the foreign institutions as a deliberate attempt, and not political convenience, to take the country to a new height, as well as various initiatives and measures being out on the drawing board to alleviate the impacts.

The two-day Summit, hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron, was aimed at repositioning the global financial architecture to reconsider less developed countries, who are dealing with debilitating debt hangovers, struggling through energy transitions, and still reeling from effects of climate change and Covid-19. President Tinubu seized the moment to start a new conversation about Nigeria.

A plethora of sideline meetings were lined before he arrived in Paris, and the President was careful in making the right choices for Nigeria’s economic prosperity. President Tinubu met with French President, Macron at the Elysée, President of Swiss, Alain Berset, at Palais Brongniart, President of Benin Republic, Patrice Talon, Director General of World Trade Organization, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim), Prof. Benedict Oramah and President of European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Odile Renaud–Basso.

The President also held meetings with Senior Vice President of Airbus/ATR, Public Affairs, Laurent Rahul Domergue, on aviation matters and a two-hour marathon interaction with the Nigerian community based in France, where he outlined his vision for the economy, starting with a roadmap on palliatives to soothe the burden of subsidy removal. He sought “family” support for more inclusive growth, especially with technical expertise.

Every speaker at the forum thanked the President for taking the bull by the horn, and getting the “elephant’’ out of the way.

“You have shown we have a committed and competent leader. You are the first President of Nigeria, who has no godfather. You are your godfather. We are impressed with the removal of subsidies and streamlining of foreign exchange. We will wait for the palliatives,’’ Prof. Emmanuel Iga, a Nigerian in France, said”.

While I am happy at the meeting because of the strategic importance of France as a world power and member of the elite G7, Tinubu must set the precedent of Nigeria relating with world superpowers on the basis of equality rather than the usual tokenism that has defined international relations since most African nations gained independence from their erstwhile majorly domiciled European former colonial masters.

My worry is that France’s status as a so-called developed nation is largely predicated on her continued parasitism of the resources of her former colonies In Africa. Françafrique is the name of this unequal balance of power between France and the Francophone countries which have been a source of anguish and underdevelopment of the latter.

Let us go down memory lane: In 1962, French President Charles de Gaulle commissioned his adviser Jacques Foccart to build up Françafrique. “Foccart built a network of personal contacts between the French leadership and the elites of the former French colonies.”

Foccart came up with the treaties that are still in force today. In exchange for military protection against attempted coups and the payment of hefty kickbacks, African leaders guaranteed French companies access to strategic resources such as diamonds, ores, uranium, gas and oil. The result is a solid presence of French interests on the continent, including 1,100 companies, some 2,100 subsidiaries and the third largest investment portfolio after Great Britain and the United States. France also retains the right of first refusal on all natural resources and privileged access to government contracts.
France also has a considerable military presence in Africa. It leads the Barkhane operation against Islamist groups in the Sahel region, in which around 5,100 soldiers from several countries are involved. According to the US daily “New York Times”, in 2007, almost half of France’s 12,000 peacekeeping troops were deployed to Africa. These troops have both military and advisory capabilities as well as supporting and stabilizing the regimes of the respective countries.

If France loses her ex-colonies to a possible rebellion by nationalist African leaders, its status risks being plunged to a similar one like Spain who largely depended on the plundering and looting of resources from abroad and when that stopped as a result of the loss of the Armada war against England in 1588 which saw the rise of the British Empire, the hydra-headed monster of poverty crept into the country which it is still yet to recover from.

France and eight members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had an agreement on replacing the CFA franc with a new West African single currency called Eco.
According to the agreement, the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) will no longer have to deposit half of its foreign exchange reserves with the Banque de France as was the case until now. However, the fixed parity with the euro will be maintained, allegedly to prevent inflation. At least this will put an end to remittances from Africa to France. But it will not enable an African independent monetary policy.

In the past, African countries paid up to 65% of their foreign exchange reserves into the French treasury.

Tinubu should beware of a country that has no respect for the Sovereignty of her former colonies as the tendency is that the nauseating paternalistic relationship may be extended to Nigeria which wouldn’t be in our national interest.

It is high time Africa with Nigeria leading the vanguard altered the terms of foreign policy from aid to trade so that we can sit at the negotiation table and deal with one another as equals.
Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream speech’ particularly rings true here. The time for the paradigmatic shift in trade relations is now and Nigeria like it did during the anti-colonial liberation struggle should spearhead this vanguard, especially in the impending post-fossil fuel era.

Tony Ademiluyi is the CEO of BuzzTimes Media and can be reached on anthonyademiluyi@yahoo.com and +2348167677075.

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