Since his emergence into power last year, Emmanuel Macron has become a symbol of a new era to Nigerian youths who were delighted to see the 39 year old at the time, occupy the highest seat in his country. With Nigeria’s political scene, especially at the national level, dominated by those considered to be elder statesmen, and the plague of godfatherism still lingering; Macron’s political journey and eventual arrival as French number one man was an impressive feat highlighting a glimpse of possibilities for young Nigerians given that the dynamics of Nigerian society differ from that of France.
Remarkably, Emmanuel Macron seems to have a peculiar interest in Africa and is perceived as a game changer in respect to France relations with Africa and specifically with Francophone Africa. He has currently visited six African countries within the first year of his presidential mandate. The French President is scheduled to visit Nigeria early July. Nigeria would be the seventh African country and the second anglophone African country he will be visiting. He visited Ghana in November 2017. This visit is timely as it is happening barely two months after the Nigerian president signed the Not-too-young-to-run bill.
Although this would be Macron’s first presidential trip to Nigeria, it would not be his first time in the country. In 2002, as part of his academic requirements, Macron did a six-month internship at the French Embassy in Abuja. In the famous online journal Le Parisien, Mr. Jean-Marc Simon, the then French ambassador to Nigeria remembers this student for his incredible empathy towards everyone. In the article titled: Quand Macron était un stagiaire à l’ambassade au Nigéria published on 27th November 2017, the former diplomat recalls the era; commenting on Macron’s interest in politics and describing him as a pleasant, brilliant and serious young man. Almost two decades after Macron’s initial trip to Nigeria, he would return to the country, this time not as a student but as the man at the helm of affairs in his country, France. Macron’s visit is aimed at strengthening bilateral ties between both nations. Addressing the Nigerian National Assembly is one of the items on his schedule. Focus areas during the visit include security, youth development, culture and creativity sectors, amongst others. His advent is expected to serve as a springboard for richer and deeper Franco-Nigerian relations in all spheres.
Nigeria now enjoys a flourishing relationship with France and the post-civil war dented image of France has been largely restored. This has led to mutual benefits especially regarding the education sector, security and economy. French language is taught at all levels of education – primary, secondary and tertiary. The French-FUNAI/Nigeria partnership is another commendable development in the education sector. This partnership between the French embassy in Nigeria and Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ikwo (FUNAI), Ebonyi state came into existence through the signing of a tripartite agreement in January 2016 between FUNAI, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and the French Government. Through this scheme, the French government would be awarding thirty-five scholarships to FUNAI students. With regard to security, France has played a significant role in fighting insurgency in Nigeria. Presently, Nigeria tops the list of France’s trading partners in sub-Saharan Africa and is the leading supplier of hydrocarbon to France in the sub-region. In 2017, trade between the two nations amounted to 3.6 billion euros. Impressive as this may seem, the proposed visit of President Macron would yield even greater economic feats if the glaring opportunities for bilateral investments and trade is effectively harnessed.
It is with this foresight that Friends of Nigeria, in collaboration with the Nigerian Embassy in France put together the Spotlight Nigeria 2018 with the theme “Partnership that works”. The objective of the conference is to showcase Nigeria to French investors as the ideal investment destination. Focus areas include the Energy, Real Estate & Construction, Agriculture, Manufacturing & Processing, Tourism & Creative Industry, FCMG, Education & Capacity Building, and Digital & Technology. The programme would hold in Paris on the 4th and 5th of October 2018.
Abiodun Odunuga, Vice President of Friends of Nigeria and Unity Ivongbe, Director of Projects of Friends of Nigeria will also be attending this Presidential Visit and will be available to meet with Nigerian companies who are interested in attending the Spotlight Nigeria 2018 event. They can be reached via email@example.com.