France offers N500b to kick-start Digital Africa Initiative

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France has endorsed an initiative to develop entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa, with the European superpower offering €1 billion (N500 billion) to kick-start the scheme.

Tagged Digital Africa Initiative (DAI), it is aimed at creating a pool of entrepreneurial knowledge and business information sharing, as well as attracting French, African and European businesses to the new narrative of the continent’s emerging entrepreneurs.

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French President, Emmanuel Macron, made the pledge in Lagos yesterday, in an interactive session with the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) alumni and other African entrepreneurs.

He said the fund would be extended through the French Development Agency.

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The best way to succeed is to have strong private sector entrepreneurs, because it is the only way to ensure inclusive growth and raise a middle class that will support productive activities, he said.

The French president also saw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between TEF and the country, guaranteeing 700 per cent of new loans to the Foundation’s alumni, as a way of supporting Africa’s new entrepreneurial narrative.

Macron, who spoke on migration and cross border trade between Europe and Africa at the interactive session, insisted that more Africans should develop the continent.

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He said migration has come to stay and that it cannot be curtailed by building walls, a veiled reference to America’s Donald Trump, who is constructing a border wall to halt the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States.

“Migration created a lot of tension in Europe in the last few years when people from the Middle East fled in thousands to Europe. But we are experiencing a new wave of migration now, largely from Africa. But migration between Europe and Africa is not new. For decades, it has been happening and we did integrate. But I don’t like the idea of people taking the Mediterranean, the deserts, Libya and Morocco because they want to have a better future.”

He said people fleeing on account of war must be protected, urging persons in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria to stay back and develop their countries.

“These countries are better today than a decade ago. The root of the new wave of migration is the fact that they lack opportunities and hope. We have to deal with democracy in Africa and build the future of young Africans,” he said.

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Discouraging the culture of rearing multiple children, Macron said: “You cannot earn enough to lift yourself out of poverty when you have seven children from one woman and put them into forced marriage uneducated. Multiple kids are recipes for poverty. It is crazy to have many children than you can care for and let no one tell me it is culture.

“It is not African culture, unless it is the choice of women to continue to be used for child rearing. Investment and education and economic opportunities are key for Africa. We will rather want those immigrants to succeed in Africa.”

He added that he would support regional integration that may warrant Francophone countries abandoning the CFA for a common currency.

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Earlier, TEF Chairman Tony Elumelu said the Foundation has already raised 4,000 entrepreneurs out of the 10,000 it plans to groom in the next 10 years with $100 million support.

The benefits notwithstanding, Macrons visit to Lagos caused many residents a traffic nightmare.

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The state government had announced a 12:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. restriction to movement on routes leading to Afrika Shrine, visited by Macron Tuesday night. But the half-day restraint was more than the city’s insufficient road network could handle. Chaotic traffic scenes occurred not only on the restricted roads but also at adjoining and alternative routes.

There could also have been more to the restriction. While the inexplicably long closure lasted, personnel of the Lagos State Public Works Corporation (LSPWC) were seen making quick fixes to roads leading to the Shrine.

One frustrated motorist, Gbenga Ajiboye, managed a sarcastic remark: “Macron should please visit more often. We are seeing streetlights getting fixed, roads being tarred around Agidingbi and refuse being promptly evacuated. After Afrika Shrine, he should visit other parts of Lagos, particularly Ajao Estate and Isolo, because we need to fix the many potholes on Lagos roads.”

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