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Twenty-second Ambassadors’ Conference/Africa

Published on August 29, 2014
Opening speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic
Paris, August 28, 2014

AFRICA/DEVELOPMENT

Europe’s peace and security do not depend on Europe alone, but on areas far from Europe. I mentioned the Middle East; I also have to talk about Africa.

It’s a continent with which we have ties of friendship and to which we are also tied by history. This year’s commemorations once again reminded us of what the Africans had done during World War I and World War II to ensure our victory, i.e. our freedom. So these blood ties remain. But we are also convinced that Africa is a continent of growth.
Right now, as our ambassadors can attest, there are projects all over Africa, it is establishing infrastructures, exploiting mineral resources and making considerable strides in new technologies and the energy transition. In 2013 alone, six of the world’s 10 most dynamic economies were African. That illustrates why the vision that many have of Africa must change.

During the Elysée Summit last December, we tried to update the tradition of meetings between France and Africa. We took important decisions. First, France will allocate €20 billion over the next 10 years for development in Africa. The French Development Agency will play a key role in this strategy. We even had the idea – with businesses, because nothing can be done without businesses – of a French-African Foundation for Growth that could serve as a lever for us to be useful to Africa and that would be useful to our companies. This foundation is being set up and will undertake its first projects.

EBOLA EPIDEMIC/FRENCH SUPPORT/PROTECTION OF FRENCH NATIONALS

But at the same time that I speak about Africa and the historical, economic and human ties that unite us, I must also speak of Africa as a vulnerable continent. The Ebola epidemic is another tragic demonstration of that fact. This epidemic has already left more than 2,000 dead – and not all the victims have yet been counted….

France has been actively involved from the beginning of this epidemic – both the Foreign Ministry and the Social Affairs and Health Ministry.

Experts from INSERM and the Pasteur Institute identified the presence of the virus at the outset. Today these same experts are actually contributing to making diagnoses and monitoring the disease. They are present, courageously present, on the ground.

I also want to applaud the non-governmental organizations that are on the ground, providing training, support, care for the sick and alas, observing the ravages of the virus. France must show its solidarity. Its solidarity is not only financial in nature, it must also be scientific and human.

All measures have been taken to protect our citizens. Military means – and for this I thank the Defence Ministry – have been deployed to guarantee MEDEVAC capability. This capability is at the disposal of the World Health Organization.

Epidemics are rooted in poverty and are the result of vulnerable healthcare systems. That’s why France, I decided, would maintain its contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.

Generally speaking, even at times like these when we are going through what’s called “budgetary difficulties” (actually, we’ve had deficits for more than 10 years, but we simply decided to reduce them), even in this context that we’re all familiar with, France remains one of the world’s very top donors when it comes to development. And it has boosted its contribution: in 2013, French aid to the Least Developed Countries grew by one-third compared with 2012. We are not doing this simply out of generosity; we are doing it because we are aware that this misery and this poverty create a breeding ground for terrorism.

AFRICA/SECURITY/FRENCH INTERVENTIONS

Africa, despite its strengths, is a continent threatened by insecurity. Whenever a friendly country is a victim of terrorism, we’re by its side. Whenever it’s also the victim of a risk of confontation which may lead to massacres or even genocide, we’re also by its side, without asking for anything in exchange, without having any idea of compensation or commercial interest.

Last December, we intervened in the Central African Republic; we prevented the worst, and I mean the worst. We were the first; I’ll come back to that. But today, the European Union is doing an excellent job with EUFOR. In a few months’ time the blue helmets are going to take over; that was our wish, moreover. We’re also concerned that the Central African state should be rebuilt and that we can, at the same time, have a democratic transition. That means elections.

In Mali, the decision was taken at the beginning of 2013. Some doom-mongers had told us we’d be there forever… We did our job. I pay tribute to the action taken by Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and the armed forces. The results speak for themselves: democracy has been restored and development projects are restarting. Reconciliation is under way. It took a long time, it’s true. And France unreservedly supports Algeria’s action to support this process.

As for our armed forces, they’ll contribute, in other forms, to our military presence. We’ve adapted it and it will take other forms in order to prevent the resurgence of terrorism. Operation Barkhane means we’re less present in Mali and more so in places where we were already established. We’re ensuring that, with 3,000 troops, we can ensure West Africa’s security.

But as soon as one risk disappears and one threat is dispelled, another peril emerges. We saw this in Nigeria: Boko Haram, with its intention of building a caliphate. What did we do? We created an international reaction, brought together here the countries of the region (the so-called Lake Chad Basin countries) and enabled intelligence, information exchange and possible actions to be coordinated. Nigeria – the world’s 20th economic power, Africa’s most dynamic and no doubt its leading economy – is living under threat from Boko Haram. Nigeria trusts in France, and France will do everything to protect Nigeria’s ability to be a great economy and a great democratic country.

But I’m going to share with you my major concern, right now, even at a time when there are so many issues arousing concern and vigilance: Libya.

It’s total chaos; jihadist groups have taken control of important sites and not just oil sites. There are two parliaments, two governments – even though, for us, there’s only one that’s legitimate. Today there are militias and, in southern Libya, a band of terrorist groups waiting to intervene.

If we do nothing – I mean nothing serious, nothing political, nothing international – terrorism will spread throughout the region. So France is asking the United Nations – because it’s the UN which has to shoulder its responsibilities – to organize exceptional support for the Libyan authorities to restore their state. We must also pay close attention to Libya’s neighbours: Egypt and also Tunisia, because Tunisia may be the success story of the Arab Spring. It began there and it is to be feared that it’s the sole [positive] result. It must still be protected. (…)./.

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