Manuel Valls with youngsters during ihis visit in Africa
4 November 2016

"Africa is the continent of the future"

Togo, Ghana and the Ivory Coast were all stops on Manuel Valls' latest African visit from 28 to 31 October 2016, with the aim of showcasing France's support for the democratic processes and economic developments in progress across these three countries. The Prime Minister also spoke out in favour of an Erasmus-style exchange programme between the two continents.
Content published under the Government Valls III from 2016 11th February to 2016 06th December
 
After Chad and Niger in 2014, Mali and Burkina Faso in 2015 and, most recently, Senegal last September, Mr Valls returned to Africa to visit three more countries – Togo, Ghana and the Ivory Coast – between 28 and 31 October 2016. At the end of his visit, the Prime Minister voiced his belief that "Africa [was] Europe's future. And these three days have only served to convince me further that Africa is the continent of the future; it is already the continent of the here-and-now."
 

An African Erasmus programme

For Manuel Valls, this visit was about conveying a message of friendship and confidence in Africa, "which is seeking to expand in economic and democratic terms." He underscored the importance of France's and Europe's role in helping Africa, "since it is here that we will take up the major challenges of tomorrow": migration flows, the terror threat, energy transition, fight against climate change, development and education for example.
 
For the Prime Minister, the key to successful cooperation "for France and for Africa is mobility, exchange: mobility of artists, of students, of entrepreneurs and of start-up founders."

This involves advocating "a highly ambitious programme between Europe and Africa based on the Erasmus example. This scheme, which has enabled so many exchanges between European students and European countries and which, today, must be extended for apprentices […] I want a Euro-African Erasmus," Mr Valls declared – full of praise for "this glowing achievement which has transformed European youth by giving the young people of Europe the chance to meet, learn about each other's cultures and see the world differently."
 

"Togo is changing"

27 years following Michel Rocard's visit in late 1989, the last official visit made by a French Prime Minister to Togo, Manuel Valls landed in Lomé, Togo's capital, to begin a three-day tour of West Africa. 
 
The topic underpinning his visit to Togo was stronger political, economic and cultural cooperation.
 


First stone laid of a new waste processing plant

In Lomé, Manuel Valls laid the first stone of a new landfill site for the city's urban waste, since the current Agoe-Nyivé site has already reached maximum capacity. This project is being funded by the AFD, France’s national institution working for development, as part of France's development policy, by the European Union and by the West African Development Bank – which are also helping in terms of its construction.
 

Ghana: a 21st century alliance between Europe and Africa

The second stop on Mr Valls' African tour was Ghana, where English is the official language: a sign that France is not forgetting the English-speaking parts of Africa in its strategy geared towards defending economic and diplomatic positions on the continent.  He held talks on a range of subjects with President John Mahama, who extended him an official welcome.
 
 
During his visit, Manuel Valls called for a "21st century alliance" between Europe and Africa to be able to adopt a strong position as regards the new competitors of the emerging countries – not least China. "France has not always held its ground in recent years as the emerging countries have muscled in to invest in Africa," the Prime Minister conceded.
 
In 2015, the European Union is Ghana's leading supplier with 31.2% of imports. Hot on its heels are China (22.8%) and India (6.1%). For Mr Valls, "France therefore has an immense responsibility to assume: that of offering Europe and Africa a 21st century alliance. It is our responsibility, France's responsibility, to forge partnerships which make our economies and democracies strong," for "if we do not respond to this call, if we do not catch their attention, well, Africa will simply look elsewhere."
 

Slavery: remembering and building

From Accra, the Prime Minister signed a column in the newspaper Le Monde, entitled "On ne peut pas réparer l'esclavage mais on peut préparer l'avenir" (We may not be able to make amends for slavery but we can plan for the future), in which he paid tribute to the "memory of slavery [which] runs deep in the conscience of Africa. It is alive in places where everyone has the opportunity to collect their thoughts," he wrote. Remembrance sites such as the Franklin House in Accra, an old slave house, which the Prime Minister visited to honour the memory of the victims of this "crime against humanity".
 
Manual Valls wholeheartedly called for resilience and an approach turned towards the future: "shaking free of one's past does not mean forgetting it," he said. "Shaking free of one's past also implies feeling enthusiastic about what the future holds. It does not so much mean living in the idea of reparation – for, to quote the great Martinican poet and descendant of slaves Aimé Césaire, the slave past is 'irreparable' – as looking to the future, which means strengthening the ties between our two continents," the Prime Minister urged. He is fully in favour of a "Euro-African exchange programme much like the "Erasmus" scheme, in contrast to the calls from some activists for ‘reparations’”.
 
Mr Valls also made time to visit students at the French lycée (sixth-form college) in Accra, convinced that, within this "Africa, the continent of the future", lies the promise of its youth.
 
On France's behalf, the Prime Minister also paid tribute to the memory of Kwame Nkrumah, who led Ghana to independence. He laid a wreath beside Nkrumah's monument and spent a moment reflecting before his tomb in the mausoleum. Mr Valls also visited the Kwame Nkrumah memorial park.
 

"France and the Ivory Coast have so much in common"

The third and final stop on the Prime Minister's African tour was the Ivory Coast, where he made a two-day visit from 30 to 31 October.  He was officially welcomed by the President of the Republic Alassane Ouattara, and held a working session with his counterpart, Daniel Kablan Duncan, a session which saw the signing of the Justice agreement associated with the Debt Reduction-Development Contract (C2D).
 
The first thing the Prime Minister did on arriving early afternoon was to visit the French forces of the 43rd Naval Infantry Battalion of Port-Bouët, with whom he had lunch. The military authorities told him about the activities of the operating base and gave a report of the situation.
 

The brown gold of the Ivory Coast

The next day, on 31 October, Manuel Valls headed to the chocolate factory which opened in 2015, in the industrial zone of Yopougon. The chocolate factory is part of the French group Cémoi, which has had a foothold in the Ivory Coast since 1996 with its cocoa bean processing business. The Ivory Coast is the world's leading producer of cocoa, with 35% of global harvests and production in excess of 1.7m tonnes in 2014. Cocoa accounts for 22% of GDP and more than 50% of export earnings for the Ivory Coast.
 
Mr Valls, together with his Ivory Coast counterpart Daniel Kablan Duncan, was given a guided tour of the whole complex, from the warehouse where the beans are stored, through the processing plant, to the chocolate factory itself.
 
A pumping station funded by the AFD
Later that day, the two Prime Ministers inaugurated the drinking water treatment plant in the village of Adonkoi, in the municipality of Songon. Funding for this station came from the AFD's Debt Reduction-Development Contract (C2D).
Manuel Valls gave assurances to the Ivory Coast that France was committed to "helping it make this ambition a reality". "It is our duty and intention to be there for you, every time Ivory Coast needs France's help. In a fully-fledged, win-win partnership. We will continue to support this country".