French firms must fight China for stake in Africa: Moscovici

Sat Dec 1, 2012 10:27am EST
 
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By Joe Bavier

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - French companies must go on the offensive and fight the growing influence of rival China for a stake in Africa's increasingly competitive markets, France's Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said on Saturday.

France, which once ruled over much of West Africa as colonial master, continued to exert direct and indirect influence over its ex-colonies for decades through a murky system of patronage known as "Francafrique".

However, that regional reach is now being challenged by a new Chinese investment blitz.

"It's evident that China is more and more present in Africa...(French) companies that have the means must go on the offensive. They must be more present on the ground. They have to fight," Moscovici told journalists during a trip to Ivory Coast.

France's Socialist President Francois Hollande has promised to break with his conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy's business-focused policy towards Africa and root out the last vestiges of Francafrique.

However that does not mean France will back away from competition with China for economic influence in Africa, Moscovici said.

"Africa is booming. Sub-Saharan Africa will have the second highest regional growth after Asia in 2012 with a rate of 5.5 percent," he said.

"The new phenomenon is that African growth has the potential to stimulate growth in France. We want to be present there."   Continued...

 
French Economy and Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici leaves the Elysee Palace after the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris November 28, 2012. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer