Russia Lauds French Investment Despite European Sanctions
By Kester Kenn Klomegah
On April 29, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a videoconference with leaders of several French companies-members of the Franco-Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI France-Russia) to discuss some aspects of Russian-French trade, economic and investment cooperation, including the implementation of large joint projects as well as the prospects for collaborative work.
Putin noted that the Economic Council of the Franco-Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is still operational in spite of difficulties, and the late April meeting was the fourth time since 2016.
From the historical records, France has been and remains a key economic partner for Russia, holding a high but not sufficiently high, 6th place among EU countries in the amount of accumulated investment in the Russian economy and 5th place in the volume of trade.
Despite a certain decline in mutual trade in 2020 (it went down by 14 per cent compared to 2019), the ultimate figure is quite acceptable at $13 billion. French investment in Russia is hovering around $17 billion, while Russian investment in France is $3 billion.
Over 500 companies with French capital are operating in various sectors of the Russian economy. French business features especially prominently in the Russian fuel and energy complex, automobile manufacturing and, of course, the food industry.
“It could have been more if the French regulatory and state authorities treated Russian businesses as Russia is treating French businesses. We appreciate that in a difficult economic environment, French companies operating in Russia have not reduced their activity,” Putin pointed out.
The Russian Government established the Foreign Investment Advisory Council, which includes six French companies. Further, there is an opportunity to discuss specific issues related to the economic and investment climate in Russia, and that opportunity is traditionally provided at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, which will be held on June 2-5.
French companies are involved in the implementation of globally famous landmark projects, such as the construction of the Yamal LNG and Arctic LNG 2 facilities and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project. This, Putin regrettably said “We are aware of and regret the amount of political speculation concerning the latter. I would like to point out once again that it is a purely economic project, it has nothing to do with present-day political considerations.”
Russia intends to increase assistance to the development of science and technology. Funds will be directed primarily to innovation sectors such as pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, nuclear and renewable energy, and the utilisation of carbon emissions.
“We are interested in involving foreign companies that would like to invest in Russia and in projects we consider high priority. In order to do this, we will continue to use preferential investment regimes and execute special investment contracts, as you know. A lot of French companies successfully use these tools on the Russian market. For example, more than one-third of 45 special investment contracts have been signed with European, including French, partners,” he explained during the meeting.
He also mentioned continuous efforts to attract foreign companies to localise their production to state purchases and to implementing the National Development Projects, as well as existing opportunities for French businesses in special economic zones. Today there are 38 such zones created throughout the Russian Federation.
Russia pays particular attention to attracting high-quality foreign specialists. Their employment is being fast-tracked, and their families can now obtain indefinite residence permits. There is a plan to launch a special programme of ‘golden visas’ whereby to issue a residence permit in exchange for investment in the real economy, a practice is used in many other countries.
Taking his turn, Co-Chair of the CCI France-Russian Economic Council, Gennady Timchenko, noted that the pandemic has changed the world, people and business and that French companies in Russia are responsible employers and socially responsible members of Russian society.
Despite the crisis and the geopolitical situation, a number of French companies have launched production in 2020–2021. Companies such as Saint-Gobain and Danone have renewed their investments. French companies have increased their export of products manufactured in Russia; they are investing in priority sectors of the Russian economy. For example, this year the French company Lidea is launching a plant called Tanais to produce seeds. Russia is dependent on the import of 30 to 60 per cent of these seeds, according to various estimates.
Despite the current geopolitical conditions and information field, there are important signals for French business and the Russian side to strengthen economic cooperation, attract investment, and create partnerships on a new mutually beneficial basis.
Co-Chair of the CCI France-Russian Economic Council, Patrick Pouyanne, noted that the meeting has become an excellent tradition, the presence of 17 CEOs and deputy CEOs of French companies shows the importance of these joint meetings, and further reflect the deep interest of French business in Russia.
In addition, Patrick Pouyanne further offered some insights into Russia-French cooperation. By 2020, twenty members of the Economic Council invested a total of 1.65 trillion rubles, supporting 170,000 jobs. These companies have operated in Russia for decades and continue investing in the Russian economy despite the sanctions and the epidemic. These companies help France maintain its status as the second-largest investor in Russia. In 2020, France invested over $1 billion in Russia despite the economic difficulties caused by the pandemic.
Concluding his remarks, Patrick Pouyanne stressed that the economic operators believe everyone will benefit if Russia, France and all of Europe are not divided or isolated. This is the challenge today. Indeed, diplomacy has to continue playing an important role in settling differences, and businesses are convinced that meetings like this create bridges between Russia and France to strengthen investment and economic cooperation.
Nigeria, Ghana Expediting Actions On Abidjan-Lagos Highway Construction
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
Popularly referred to as the Abidjan-Lagos corridor, this is a long highway which stretches from Abidjan to Lagos, crossing five independent states (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria) from west to east, and includes two political capitals and many regional economic centres.
By European standards too long, but this highway, which has a length of approximately 965 kilometres, is considered the most mega-project to undertake in Africa.
Due to the countries’ linguistic, cultural and political differences, the region’s economic potential has not yet been fully exploited. There has been little alignment of standards and construction of common infrastructure, and even within the countries, transportation links are often unreliable. The idea of undertaking this transport connection has still been on the planning table, with its biggest headache about the source of finance.
Reports emerged that there had been a series of negotiations and meetings at the highest levels to determine effective ways of financing and its final realisation in the region. In this extreme case for this giant infrastructure, global key players offer reassurance, but there has not been any noticeable successful financial commitment.
The Ministerial Steering Committee of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway Development Project held its 19th in May 2023 to take decisions on expediting the completion of technical studies, securing lands for the right of way, financing the construction of the highway project and the operationalization of the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Management Authority (ALCoMA).
Welcoming participants on behalf of the ECOWAS Commission, the Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy and Digitalization, Sediko Douka, lauded the commitment of the member countries and highlighted the fact that the Abidjan-Lagos Highway remains a flagship project for the Commission and is one of the interventions that could change the narrative of ECOWAS by highlighting the contribution to the total economic growth of community citizens with projects in transport, health, agriculture, customs, migration, education and more.
“It will enable community citizens to appreciate better and be informed about tangible achievements of ECOWAS. Indeed, we must accentuate the visibility of ECOWAS achievement on physical infrastructure projects in the area of transport, energy, telecom, water resource and agriculture, just as this project has been presented at various African Investment Forums by the African Development Bank, he said.
Commissioner Douka, however, charged the participants to take an interest in ensuring that the project becomes a reality. “We keep calling on both public and private investors to accompany the countries and ECOWAS in the realization of this visionary venture,” Douka added.
The feasibility and preliminary design studies have been completed, whiles the final phases should be completed before the end of this year. “On resource mobilization, it should be noted that ECOWAS has just adopted a new regulatory framework on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) that is an incentive for the entry of Private Sector in large Investments like the nature of this project,” according to the Commissioner.
Ministers of Roads and Works of Corridor Countries took turns to express their continued commitment to support the completion of the technical studies and accompany ECOWAS and Development Partners to raise the needed investment to fund the project.
Chairman of the Ministerial Steering Committee and Minister of Public Works and Housing of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Babatunde Raji Fashola, expressed his pride at the achievements so far attained from the outset. He highlighted that projects of such magnitude usually encounter several challenges at the preparatory stages, but through the hard work of Project Engineers and Member States, most challenges have been overcome.
“We are building a road over 1,000 kilometres, across five (5) countries, across a diversity of languages and political structures, in a modern era of climate change, people’s rights and sustainability on our horizon. We have heard issues about compensation, environment, social impact assessment, resettlement and action plan etc., because, at the end of the day, this is all about people. So, we must build in a way that takes care not only of people’s interest but also climate and other diversities,” noted Babatunde Raji Fashola.
In this case, partners and stakeholders are still highly optimistic about the completion of the necessary reports to address all the obstacles relating to the project. “If we get this right, then constructing the project will be very easy, so please do not despair. It may look difficult, but with my little experience, this is the hardest part, and we are almost there,” he said and intimated that the operationalization of the Management Authority that will manage the corridor highway development project has commenced with the formation of the Board of Directors.
Vice President of the Republic of Ghana delivered a keynote address during the meeting through Yaw Osafo Maafo, Senior Advisor to the President. The Vice President commended the ministers and ECOWAS for their sustained effort and strong collaboration in preparing the Corridor Highway Project. He hinted that in preparation for the construction of Ghana’s Multinational Highway section, Ghana has embarked on massive sensitization drives along the host communities.
He expressed excitement over the assurance of the African Development Bank (AfDB) to raise the required funds for the highway construction, describing the project as top on the agenda of the Ghanaian government. “The Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway Project is on the priority list of the Government of Ghana, and we keenly look forward to the day that the sword will be raised for the commencement of this construction. We believe that this project will give a new dimension to ECOWAS, and we believe it will change the economies of the five (5) countries and the region, and therefore whatever we can do to support it, we will do it,” concluded Yaw Osafo Maafo.
Construction of a highway route from Abidjan to Lagos is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2025. The project is expected to cost $15 billion and will significantly increase regional economic integration. The African Development Bank (AfDB) is involved in the financing. In broad terms, it contributes to poverty reduction and economic and social development in the least developed African countries by providing concessional funding for projects and programs and technical assistance for studies and capacity-building activities.
Its materialisation largely depends on sustained collective efforts to the corridor highway project and strong collaboration. Facilitating the sub-region movement of goods and people. It will connect the industrial zones and move products and services across West Africa. Consequently, this project will give a new dimension to ECOWAS. High gratitude goes to the African Development Bank (AfDB) which is leading the consortium to raise the funds for this project in the region.
Worth re-emphasizing here the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway implementation and its related significance to the African Continental Free Trade Area in the West African region. It has the full potential for achieving the ultimate goals of the single market under discussion. This highway infrastructure involves the five corridor member countries: Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.
The population within the region is experiencing rapid growth, and nearly 50 million people are expected to live within the corridor by 2035. The Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway offers an opportunity for a significant portion of West Africa’s economic output to be generated, and it is also envisaged that cities within the corridor will become the most economically developed across the West Africa region – in the Economic Community of West Africa.
GTS Drilling, Others Lauded for Supporting Children’s Heart Foundation
The President of the Children’s Heart Foundation, Ghana, Mrs Jacqui Akomka-Lindsay, has praised GTS Drilling and others for supporting the organisation over the years.
According to her, over 200 children are diagnosed with congenital heart diseases annually in the country, and their families cannot pay $6,000 to $10,000 for surgery.
She noted that the exploration and drilling company and others have always made efforts to support patients with funds to carry out surgeries.
Speaking at the organisation’s annual fundraiser ball, she emphasised that it takes benevolent and kind-hearted individuals and organizations to aid children with heart defects.
“At this juncture, I will like to mention the names of some companies that, since 2011, have supported us. These include GTS Drilling, Ghana International School, Labadi Beach Hotel, and Interplast for helping undertake the surgeries of children with heart defects financially,” said Mrs Ahomka-Lindsay, adding that, “The rest are Tropical Cables, Electromat, Melcom, and ECOBANK, among several others.”
The president of the Children’s Heart Foundation explained how heart disorders have, over the past years, affected the growth and development of infants in the country and the need to treat them properly.
“Congenital heart disorder continues to be the most common childbirth defect for infants worldwide. These are defects that do not discriminate based on affluence or lack thereof, and those environmental conditions, especially at the early age of pregnancy when the major organs of the foetus are developing, can increase or decrease the risk of a child being born with various heart defects leading to heart diseases if not treated properly,” she added.
The Human Resources Manager for GTS Drilling, Iddi Baah-Kurey, told News Ghana in an interview that the company is motivated by saving the lives of children with such heart defects.
“Saving the children’s lives is close to our hearts”. The real heroes are the children who demonstrate courage and patience while undergoing treatment and recovery,” said Mr Baah-Kurey.
“Each recipient inspires us as employees of GTS Drilling and individuals while reminding us that health is the greatest wealth,” he added.
GTS Drilling is a local provider of drilling services to major, intermediate, and junior mining companies in Ghana.
French-African Foundation Celebrates Achievements with Young Leaders from Africa
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
Placed under the high patronage of the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, and the President of the Republic of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, the French-African Foundation will bring together the new class for a week in France in June 2023 and then a week in Rwanda for high-level meetings, interactive training and privileged moments of professional and personal exchanges with leading Franco-African and international personalities from the political, economic, cultural, sports and associative spheres.
Young African leaders aged between 28 and 40 years in 2023 have also been chosen based on competitive performance in various areas and who have a commitment to African development. These young professionals have shown inclusive leadership that impacts the community, country or region, the display of a privileged relationship with France and Africa.
This year, more than 2,000 young professionals from 53 African countries and France applied for the annual French-African Foundation’s Young Leaders programme, which aims to shine a light on outstanding individuals who are bridging the gap between the two regions. After several selection stages and hundreds of auditions conducted by an independent jury, 30 young leaders were selected for their commitment to boosting Africa-France relations.
“The 30 Young Leaders innovate daily in their activities and redraw the contours of the link between France and Africa by helping it flourish in all areas. Taking into account the environmental, social, political and economic challenges shared by the two shores of the Mediterranean, the foundation is counting on these young people to help provide solutions, embody the relationship and develop it further. As a link between Africa and France, Marseille is the ideal city to launch this new class!” – quote from Nachouat Meghouar, CEO of the French African Foundation.
Quotes from three Young Leaders: “Today, thanks to digital innovation, women have the opportunity to emancipate themselves and develop new skills, whether they are in Los Angeles or in a remote region of Cameroon. This desire for equality but also for economic and social justice allows us to find common and sustainable solutions. This is what I wish to promote for France, Cameroon and the African continent,” Nelly Kambiwa, Cameroonian, CSR Director Sopra Banking.
“The future of cinema and audiovisual creation is in Africa! The African continent is full of talent and unique stories. Within the CANAL+ Group, I am very proud to support pan-African producers, actors, scriptwriters, directors and technicians in the creation of their television series. Ambitious dramas, shot in the four corners of the continent, are thus offered, under the CANAL+ Original label, to millions of viewers in Africa, France and throughout the world. What a pleasure to participate in the promotion of African cultural excellence!” Anthony Koka, Franco-Congolese, Fiction Programme Advisor at CANAL+International
“I am Franco-Algerian, and I want to be a solution for my two countries, Algeria and France, in their diplomatic relations. I think it is time to look forward and draw a common future for our children. And I hope to help future generations by giving millions of French and African children a glimpse of the challenges of digital technology and, more particularly, of artificial intelligence through the projects we are carrying out with the start-up Evolukid, which I created seven years ago. These are powerful tools for imagining the world and also for meeting the technical needs of many public and private players.” Morad Attik, co-founder of the start-up Evolukid and founder of the Kesk’AI programme.
From war-torn Khartoum, Maha Dahawi, a doctoral student in genetics and Young Leader 2023 spoke out to express her support for the Sudanese people who are suffering from the war and the abuses carried out by the militias. In a poignant testimony, she called for hope in order to rebuild her divided country with her peers and shared her joy at joining the Young Leaders programme.
As part of their giving back to society, and in the interest of contributing to the development of this great continent, young leaders identified different areas of interest under the broad theme of sustainable development in which they carried out activities, including development-oriented projects and research to catalyze the development of the continent of Africa.
It also involves playing useful roles in the sustainable growth and development of their societies by applying their skills, technical know-how, knowledge and experience to decipher things that may not be working properly in order to innovate ways for creating change.
Double French and Rwandan patronage: After Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo in 2019 and Senegal’s President Macky Sall in 2021, this year’s French-African Foundation Young Leaders programme is under the dual patronage of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Rwanda Development Board Director General, Clare Akamanzi, welcomed the new promotion to Rwanda, a privileged destination for tourism and international investments, thanks to the gains in stability under the leadership of President Paul Kagame.
The French-African Foundation, an association created in 2019, aims to contribute to the emergence of a new generation of African and French leaders capable, through their values and means of action, of meeting the economic, social and political challenges of the time. It further aims at identifying, bringing together and promoting high potential in strengthening African and French relations.
The 2021 edition was placed under the high patronage of Mr Macron and the high patronage of the Senegalese President, Mr Macky Sall, being the chief host of the second edition took place.
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