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Ghana is important to France – Ambassador

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Our Managing Editor, Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, interviewing Mr. Francois Pujolas

The French government considers its relationship with Ghana as important because of the country’s political stability and economic weight in the West African sub-region, the French Ambassador to Ghana, Francois Pujolas has said in an exclusive interview with ghanabusinessnews.com.

“The prospects are very bright and look very positive to me because we think that Ghana is a major actor of regional integration and we support President Akufo-Addo’s decision to get Ghana closer to Cote d’Ivoire.

“I am not supporting this because Cote d’Ivoire is Francophone but we see that Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana are made for each other and if the right partnership is developed between the two like between Germany and France that will be good news for all countries in the subregion,” he added.

He told ghanabusinessnews.com that France values its relationship with Ghana and would only seek to move forward with the relationship. He therefore, emphasised the need for Ghanaians to learn the French language, much in the same way the country’s French speaking neighbours ought to learn the English language.

Learning French, he said should not be for the beauty of the language, but for “regional integration,” adding, “We support the idea that Ghana wants to play a major role in that process. And one key element in that endeavour of regional integration is for Ghana to speak more French,” he said.

Mr. Pujolas pointed out some Ghanaian youth and university students have realised the need to add one more asset, which is to learn the French language to improve their job prospects.

While admitting that French is not comparable to English, Mr. Pujolas indicated that French is widely used in the world, and that is
another reason for Ghanaians to speak French.

Training of French teachers

Mr. Pujolas said last year, the French government signed a convention with the Ministry of Education to help train the trainers  of French teachers in Ghana.

“Firstly, there is the need for more French teachers, and secondly, there is a need for a margin of improvement in the methodology. That is the main core objective,” he said, “we are doing more to open up for the French culture in general and the French language.”

He cited the Francophonie Festival, which Ghana is an associate member of as one of the programmes to promote French culture in
the sub-region.

Ghana, France trade and investments

On bilateral trade between the two countries, Mr. Pujolas said, 2016 was an exceptional year, because trade between the countries was close to $1 billion.

“The only problem I see is that the trade is too concentrated in three major sectors like agriculture, pharmaceuticals and refined oil products. Speaking broadly, not only about trade, but also investment, French expertise is available in many sectors,” he said.

He indicated that French investments in Ghana are for the long term, pointing out the engagement of French companies in social and environmental projects.

The France, Ghana Chamber of Commerce, he says now has about 100 companies as members. He noted that these French companies are providing housing and education to their employees and their families, adding that, the commitment of the companies is very much “the commitment of the French government to Ghana.”

“Those French companies already directly or indirectly, provide about 50,000 jobs,” he said.

He also gave the example of a French sports goods company, Decathlon which will open its first largest store in West Africa in Ghana in the coming months.

“In a few years, this company wants to open a factory in Ghana to manufacture goods to be sold in their several stores to be opened in Ghana,” he added.

French loans and development assistance to Ghana

On French development assistance to Ghana, Mr. Pujolas said the French government is financing ongoing projects in Ghana to the tune of €350 million.

The main sectors he says that the French government is financing are “in the energy, agricuture sectors and urban development.”

According to Mr. Pujolas, the accumulated loans given to Ghana by Agence Française de Développement, the international development agency of the French government is some €1 billion. He explained that the €350 million for ongoing projects is part of the loans.

He also indicated that the French government is contributing to Ghana’s climate change policy and power generation capacity in the renewables.

In support of regional integration, he said the French government is financing a high voltage interconnection with Burkina Faso.

Mr. Pujolas noted that the French government contributes 20 per cent of all European Union financing for Ghana, adding that the French government also supports the country’s private sector.

FDI from France

He said French businesses have invested €1.5 billion in various sectors of Ghana’s economy including the banking sector citing Societe Generale. He also noted there are investments in infrastructure, for instance the Tema Habour renovation, and the expansion of the highway between Tema and Accra.

Defence and Security

On defence and security, Mr. Pujolas said there are regular programmes between the French and Ghana Navy for practical exercises and training to help fight piracy because Ghana’s blue economy is growing (offshore resources and fishing activities) so there is the need to protect it.

He said terrorism is not only a threat to West Africa, but Europe and other regions of the world and so the French government has launched a programme last year with security agencies in Ghana to train them and exchange good practices for those involved in counter-terrorism.

French citizens living in Ghana

He said there are 1,200 French citizens living in Ghana out of which 80 per cent are based in Accra, followed by Kumasi and Takoradi – and they are “mainly expatriates,” he said. There are some 2000 to 3000 Ghanaian citizens in France, he said.

Ghana’s untapped potentials in tourism and digitization

Mr. Pujolas identified two major areas where Ghana is failing to see its potentials – tourism and digitization. He urged the Ghana government to identify ways to develop Ghana’s tourism industry since it has the potential of raking in foreign exchange into the country and also creating job opportunities for the country’s unemployed youth.

Citing France as the number one tourism destination in the world, he said, “82 million people visit France in a year for various purposes and we think that the potential of Ghana could be used in bringing more foreign currency into the country while creating jobs.”

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Watch the full interview on video.

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