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Ambition Africa: « Africa is one of Business France’s three priorities

The fourth edition of Ambition Africa was held in Paris on October 4 and 5, under the high patronage of President Emmanuel Macron. A few weeks before this annual Franco-African business meeting, Business France appointed its new Managing Director for Sub-Saharan Africa. Marc Cagnard talks about the agency’s priorities, but also the stated objective of « co-development » with the African entrepreneurs.

Interview by Mérième Alaoui

Read more : Ambition Africa: « Africa is one of Business France’s three priorities

You have just been appointed to the position of Managing Director for Sub-Saharan Africa at Business France, what is your background?

Yes, I arrived on September 1; I am based in Johannesburg. I come from the Team France network; I was international export manager in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. As far as my experience overseas is concerned, I was in charge of the Near and Middle East zone for 5 years, and previously I was in Vietnam, Brazil, Russia, the United Kingdom… Africa is a big first. But I have been to many emerging countries, and I figure out similarities.

What are the priority projects of your term?

Our two main actions are to send French companies to the African market and to ensure they succeed. We are in the process of coaching these companies in their exports so that they can meet local partners who will be future importers and distributors. In Africa, this mission takes on an additional dimension. We want to champion co-development, co-industrialization, and co-innovation… We push our companies to set up there, to establish themselves.

Our second strong mission, like elsewhere in the world, is to attract African investments to France, and there are more and more of them. Historically, there was plenty of these in the Maghreb, but in sub-Saharan Africa they are growing. These entrepreneurs come looking for the « Made in France » to export to Africa or elsewhere and serve the African diaspora abroad.

This is the fourth edition of Ambition Africa, which brought together 1600 people in person and virtually. What is the theme of this year’s event?

We have more than 700 African participants, including 100 by videoconference, and a dozen ministers attending in person. More than 47 countries are represented. This is significant. The goal this year is to highlight the partnerships between Africa and Europe, Africa and France. We have seen, after the pandemic, but also since the war in Ukraine, the emergence of needs for sovereignty, security, diversification of supplies. Africa needs to be accompanied in this transition, to be able to produce more, especially in view of its emerging youth. We want to accompany it in a win-win partnership.

What is the role played by Africa within Business France, compared to other regions of the world?

Africa is now one of the agency’s three priorities because it is also a major national priority. It’s a region that benefits from special support, and we’ve invested considerable resources in it: a team of 80 employees across the continent, a dozen offices and around 20 private partners. This makes it possible for us to serve companies in this destination. We have a « France Pack », working closely with the BPI and more broadly with the AFD group, Proparco, and other French players operating in Africa.

What are the key figures for current business between France and Africa?

We coach around 2000 distinct companies to Africa. We target SMEs, VSEs and ETIs. These French companies want to expand, export or set up operations.

Of these 2000, a large part, around 1400 are in Sub-Saharan Africa. We serve companies in all business areas: a large group of Cleantech industries (transport, mobility, energy and environment), agriculture and agri-food, the tech and digital sectors, and finally what we call the art of living and health sectors, which we serve a little less than the former.

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