From Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
French Ambassador to Nigeria Jarome Pasquire has expressed the readiness of France to strengthen its ties with Kwara State, especially in the area of agriculture, cultural exchanges, trade relations and tourism development.
‘We visited the economic side, cultural side, training, agriculture and we have been able to see how many projects Your Excellency has done in the last two years. What I can assure you as a representative of France is that we are willing to work with Nigeria and Kwara State,’ Pasquire said Tuesday night in Ilorin at the state gala dinner organised by the state government in his honour and in commemoration of the second anniversary of the AbdulRazaq administration.
‘We know that we have many friends of France in Nigeria. I can also assure you that there are many friends of Nigeria in France. So, we can develop more cooperations and I believe Kwara can have a prominent place in the cooperation between France and Nigeria.’
The dinner was preceded by the ambassador’s visit to some projects of the state government and federal government’s institutes.
Pasquire said the visit was to strengthen the existing cooperation between France and Kwara State for mutual benefits.
‘We are here to develop further cooperation between France and Kwara State as we already have Alliance française in Ilorin for teaching the French language. It is important we have that in Kwara State which shares a border with French-speaking country, the Republic of Benin,’ he said.
‘We are going to refurbish a market in the state and looking for other possible areas of cooperation. We can push for more economic cooperation. We are ready for more cooperation with the state.
‘We have had a busy schedule. We visited the BUA Sugar Company in Lafiagi (Edu Local Government). We also visited the Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI). We also visited Alapa and saw the project going on there. We also visited the innovation hub, the visual art centre, and Esie Museum,’ the French Ambassador indicated.
Governor AbdulRazaq, meanwhile, called on the French government and private companies to take advantage of a peaceful and business-friendly environment in the state to invest for mutual benefits.
‘Kwara is open for business and we invite French companies to come to invest here. Kwara is peaceful, our climate is serene, business-friendly, and our people are accommodating, skilled, and honest,’ the Kwara governor told the visiting France ennvoy at the dinner attended by dignitaries in the state.
‘As a subnational government, we are taking steps to attract investments. We have been deliberate in committing huge resources to infrastructural and human capital development, agribusiness, small scale businesses, and safety net for the poor,’ the governor stated.
He also called on the French government and other countries to work more closely with Nigeria, especially in the area of security and sustainable economic growth.
‘A key feature of our world today is the interdependence of nations. Whether in the area of economy, security, climate change, and general issues of sustainable development, it is clear that nation-states must work together to achieve success. On that note, I join Mr President to call on the French government and other countries to work more closely with Nigeria, especially in the area of security and sustainable economic growth,’ he said.
‘On behalf of the government and people of our state, I thank Your Excellency for your willingness to partner with Kwara State in many areas, especially in agriculture and tourism. The inspiring cultural display you have seen tonight is a window to the rich cultural heritage of Kwara State.’
For her part, the wife of Kwara State Governor Ambassador Olufolake AbdulRazaq implored Ambassador Pasquire to explore several opportunities in the state’s viable agricultural and other sectors.
‘Kwara State and France have so much to achieve together. The recently launched 10 year Kwara State Agricultural Transformation Plan by Governor AbdulRazaq is proof of the opportunities that abound in the state. I implore Ambassador Pasquire to explore several opportunities in our viable agricultural sector as well as other sectors in order to strengthen ties with Kwara State,’ she said.
‘French-Nigeria relations has spanned decades of beneficial intergovernmental cooperation as this has translated to robust economic, socio-political and cultural interactions. There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is the largest partner of France in sub-Saharan Africa and fourth-largest in Africa behind Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. I hope the collaboration with Kwara will bring us closer to overtaking the other countries in closeness and economic ties.
‘In 2019, trade between Nigeria and France amounted to over 4.79 million euro. In 2018 however, Nigeria ranked 28th among suppliers to France globally with foreign direct investment of 9.4 billion euro. France is one of Nigeria’s leading investors and this we are very proud of.
‘Apart from the economic ties, both countries equally enjoy cultural and political relations. From the support to combat terrorism in the Lake Chad region to cultural exchanges like the Alliance Francaise with a branch here in Ilorin. There are a lot more in stock in the arts and cultural sphere coming up in Kwara. I believe you will participate in all that is coming up,’ Mrs AbdulRazaq said.
The Kwara First Lady maintained that the state is more than ever ready and better positioned to absorb more development in critical sectors through partnerships, saying that the AbdulRazaq administration has put in place policies to enhance ease of doing business in the state.