Saturday, January 14, 2017

President in Bamako for France-Africa Summit
January 13, 2017
From Felex Share in Bamako, Mali
Zimbabwe Herald

President Mugabe has today joined other African Heads of State and Government gathered here for the 27th edition of the France-Africa Summit.

The summit is aimed at strengthening ties between France and African countries.

This is the second time Mali is hosting the event, having first done so in 2005.

The two-day summit — themed “Partnership, Peace and Emergence”— begins today with Foreign Affairs Ministers meeting to adopt resolutions for onward presentation to the Heads of State and Government.

The Ministers’ meeting will be followed by a banquet hosted by Malian leader President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita for the Presidents.

Reports indicate that the summit agenda will hinge on peace and security, terrorism, migration, cyber-crime, human and drug trafficking, among other issues affecting France and the African continent.

President Keita and French leader Francois Hollande are expected to co-chair the official opening of the summit tomorrow.

The summit will also draw representatives from the European Union, African Union, United Nations, African Development Bank, World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

African First Ladies are also expected to hold a side meeting tomorrow looking at “positive aspects of our cultures and traditions which favour promoting the sexual health of teenagers”.

For Zimbabwe, it is the fifth time President Mugabe will be attending the France-Africa Summit having made his first presence at the 1994 gathering in Paris.

Zimbabwe did not attend the 2007, 2010 and 2013 summits, rejecting the invitations from Paris as they came with unjustified conditions.

The invitations, whose conditions President Mugabe strongly disapproved, came at the height of the stand-off between the Zimbabwe and most European countries.

The stand-off followed Britain’s internationalisation of her bilateral dispute with Zimbabwe after the latter embarked on a land reform programme that benefited the majority of black people.

The EU then imposed illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002 at the behest of Britain, a move that subsequently affected the southern African nation’s relations with France.

Paris, which pursued a policy of assimilation as opposed to the separate development espoused by British colonialism, is now keen to strengthen relations with African countries, including Zimbabwe.

To mend its relations with Zimbabwe, Paris has started warming up to Zimbabwe’s vast investment opportunities and has made several investments in the past few years.

In 2014, the French Development Agency extended facilities to two local banks worth $20 million in support of Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

That same year, top French seed company, Limagrain forged a strategic partnership with Seed Co Limited, a move which has improved the operations of Zimbabwe’s biggest seed producer.

Another French yeast manufacturing company, Lesaffre Group partnered local entity Anchor Yeast and formed Lesaffre Zimbabwe in a deal worth millions of dollars.

In addition, another French telecommunications company, Sofrecom, has been working with Zimbabwe’s state-owned fixed line operator TelOne to improve competitiveness.

President Mugabe is also returning to Mali having been there in 2015 as African Union chairperson when he oversaw a major peace deal between the Malian government and Tuareg-led rebels.

President Keita reciprocated with a three-day State visit to Harare a month later and the two countries agreed to strengthen their ties in various economic sectors.

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