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Saturday, March 29, 2014

FRANCE AGAINST NIGERIA: THE NEW SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA


      

      The Daily Trust business story of Monday, March 24, 2014 caption "Dangote draws Nigeria, France into 'cement war' in Senegal" is very quick in firing my imagination on what particular topic to write my blog post on. Normally it took me some time before deciding on what to write, but looking at the fact that my last post was on Nigeria's economic interest abroad, particularly within emerging markets of Africa and Asia, i found it necessary to comment on this topic which i have already developed an interest on; particularly with the story currently going round in Nigeria that linked some foreign powers with support of insurgency in Nigeria's North East.  The Daily Trust story said that French President Francois Holland has written his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall in January this year in order to intervene on Behalf of the French cement company SOCOCIM which has already dominated about 65% share of the local cement market in the West African country. This is on the back of the reality that Dangote cement plant in Senegal did not even started production, though, the story said that it would start in the next 90 days with annual out put of three million tonnes of cement about three-fifths of which will be sold inside Senegal. The building of the plant cost Dangote some $630 million and is reputed to be one of the largest cement plants on the continent.




       It, thus, led me into looking at the map of Dangote cement plants distribution in Africa and remembering that a particular French company (Lafarge) is the biggest cement producer in the world. Then i connected this fact with the ambition of Dangote to make his company the largest producer of cement in the world in the shortest period possible. Already Dangote cement has operations in 15 African countries where some French cement companies have already made footprints over many years, after French granted independence to its colonies in Africa. And, the fact that Dangote cement has dominated Nigerian market currently Africa second biggest economy with rising GDP in the region of 6-7%, make Dangote cement a threat to France major cement mafias. The importance of cement production as a sign of growth in a country economy cannot be skipped here; as the consumption of cement in a particular region or nation increases so it GDP.




       Of all the major European imperialist countries that colonized Africa it is only France that continue to stick it nose in the continent affairs (more often than usual) who do not want let go, and read the bold writing on the wall that the era of colonialism is over. But, Africa is now free and Africans have the right to determine their fate without constant interference from an old colonial power. France has more colonies than any other European nation in Africa, but unlike Britain which was more of a sea power (during that period) and who colonised countries that had direct access to the sea, France (due to it less advantage in the sea) had a lot of it colonies in the hinterland. The old colonial policy of assimilation of the French is still being used by France in albeit a modern form in order to protect the interest of France companies on the continent. Hence, the desperation to use any means possible to achieved that, including propping up of dictators as we have seen in Algeria (Bouteflika), Chad (Idriss Debi), Cameroon (Paul Biya), Zaire (Mobutu Sese Seko), her role in Rwandan genocide of 1994, or supporting rebels who threatening to secede from a country that could be a treat to France interest on the continent as was the case with France support for short-live Biafra Republic in Nigeria.




     Dangote is not the only Nigerian businessman who is increasingly becoming a threat (competition) to France business on the continent, other Nigerians business moguls with wider interest on the continent should beware. Business people such as Tony Elumelu who control Heirs holdings and has bigger interest in UBA bank (who has spread on the continent and promise to rich more countries), Mike Adenuga who control Glo telecommunication company as well as many ambitious other Nigerian businessmen with plan to diversify into the continent have France and other world powers interested in Africa to contend with. French companies, according to Melly and Darracq (2013), "are particularly strong in sectors such as logistics, port and rail operations, telecoms, shipping, banking and air transport; they also have significant interests in tropical commodities and agriculture". of all the regions of Africa that France maintain its interests, West Africa is of more strategic importance because of the economic interests of France and its people there. Hence, the France keen interest on major players in the region; particularly Nigeria whose economy is predicted to become the largest economy on the continent, ahead of South Africa in the very near future. The fact that in term of population Nigeria alone make up half of the entire population of the 16 member ECOWAS community and likewise in GDP, France attention will always be on any move Nigeria makes in the region.




       It is no coincidence that despite Nigerian contribution to peace keeping in Mali the leadership of AU Joint forces that restore peace to the country was quickly taken away from Nigeria and given to a former French colony. We all knew the antagonism of big western countries to Nigerian leadership of ECOWAS, and her achievements in restoring peace in Liberia and Siera Leone; hence, the rush in reducing her influence in Mali which unlike Liberia and Siera Leone was colonised by France during the hectic days of imperialism. Economic interest is always in the front burner in France incursion into Africa, writing for Aljazeera English website, Faten Aggard-Clerx observes: "Over the last 10 years, France's share of African trade plummeted from 10 percent to 4.7 percent [Fr]. France is not the only country that lost ground. In fact the Western countries' share of African trade and investment has declined as a result of the increased engagements of emerging countries notably Malaysia and China. Hollande seems resolved to regain such space and put a bold commitment forward to double trade with Africa in the next five years"




   Niger republic, Nigeria northern neighbor, remain the main supplier of Uranium to France. Recently, there were wider demonstrations across the country calling for stop to the exploitative and damaging term of trade base on which France companies export uranium out of Niger to France. France energy production is heavily skewed in favour of nuclear energy with more than 30% of her energy needs supplied by nuclear power plants spread around the country. France has recently rediscovered her reliance on its former colonies and the need to further widen it economic interests there. Analysts such as Mehdi Taje of the strategic security center for the Sahel and Sahara is of the opinion that France is determine to "secure the energy resources of the Sahel and deter rival powers such as China, Russia, India and, to a lesser extent, Brazil......., For the French, the time of the conquest of territories is already completed,...... “France wants to strengthen its presence gently, but still strong enough to scare the Chinese”. On this French interest on Africa, Melly and Darracq (2013) have this to say, "French policy matters in Africa in a way that elsewhere outside Europe it does not". It is, therefore, out of focus for any Nigerian businessman who want to expand out of Nigeria into other Africa countries to make mistake of not putting France and her Africa interests in his radar. 


SOURCES:
Bresler, I. "Mali: why France is fighting for West Africa", available at,
                 www.theforeignreport.com/.../mali-why-france-is-fighting-for-west-afric.

Aggad-Clerx, F., "France: Out of Africa and Back?", available at,
                  www.aljazeera.com/.../france-out-africa-back-20131214112634946877
Melly, P. and Darracq, V., "A new way to Engage? French policy in Africa from Sarkozy to Hollande",
                   Chatham House, Africa 2013/01, available at,
                  www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/.../Africa/0513pp_franceafrica.pdf‎

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