From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The bilateral trade relations between Nigeria and France which stood at $4.5 billion in 2019, shrank to $2.3 billion in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
French Minister in charge of Foreign Trade and Attractiveness, Franck Riester, made the disclosure while briefing newsmen at the end of a meeting with members of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) on Tuesday.
He said: “France is a major financial partner for Nigeria, being the second bilateral creditor of Nigeria after China, thanks to the involvement of French Development Agency (AFD). AFD engaged more than €2 billion in the last 10 years in over 35 development projects.
“France will also dedicate financing and capacity building in the health sector in some Nigerian states,” the minister stated.
Riester added that France is also one of the major partners of the COVAX initiative, noting that last February, French President, Emmanuel Macron warned that the failure to share vaccines would entrench global inequality.
According to him, the president proposed sending part of the coronavirus vaccine supplies owned by European countries, the United States, China and Russia to developing countries.
The minister explained that there are about 100 French companies presently in Nigeria investing in the health, energy, environment logistics and other secrors, and with over 10,000 employees.
Riester disclosed that a €3.5 billion “Choose Africa” conference on President Emmanuel Macron initiative will be opened in Lagos, to support start-ups and SMEs in Africa, which Nigerian entrepreneurs have already benefited from.
Riester who is on a two-day visit in Nigeria, said the visit followed on the priorities set by French President Macron during his official visit to Nigeria in July 2018 and his willingness to change the narrative of the relations between Africa and France.
The French Minister will have several official meetings in Abuja and Lagos, to stress the importance of the bilateral economic relation.
Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong who stood in for Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said the meeting was fruitful, adding that the minister would meet with business community and other stakeholders Wednesday.