Address by the President of the French Republic for the opening of the Elysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa
Mr Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Mr President of the European Council,
Mr President of the African Union,
Mr President of the European Commission,
Madam President of the Commission of the African Union,
Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Fifty-three African countries are represented here for this meeting. Your presence confirms the importance you attach to the subjects of this Summit: security, development and the preservation of our planet.
France is honoured to welcome you here and I would like to express my gratitude for this gathering. For France, Africa is a continent with a future. Along with Asia, Africa is today the main engine of global growth. Africa’s economic and social structures are changing fast, and its development is fully underway.
France has a special relationship with Africa. That relationship is linked to History, and that history has sometimes been tragic. The relationship is above all based on the human ties which have been forged from generation to generation, with French nationals living in Africa and Africans who have come to live in France. I consider that these presences are assets in our exchanges, that they are an opportunities for our economies and for the relations that France needs to forge with all of Africa, with French-speaking Africa of course, and with English-, Portuguese-, Arabic- and Spanish-speaking Africa – with all of Africa.
France is aware of what is expected of us. Because of that proximity – a proximity that is simultaneously geographic, sentimental, cultural, linguistic and economic – we have a particular responsibility.
But times have changed. Relationships can no longer be what they have been in the past. I have on several occasions, wherever I have been in Africa, said that a new era is dawning, that Africa needed full control of its destiny and that to achieve that, it needed to ensure its security itself – yes, itself. That statement may surprise at a time when France is called upon to intervene in a country – the Central African Republic – following a Security Council resolution, at the request of the African Union.
Yes, that statement may be surprising. In fact it says a lot about a situation. Africa has managed to endow itself with the means to act. It has shown that in the past, a few years ago, in Burundi and the Comoros, and once again today in Somalia to combat the Al-Shabaab, with a military force counting more than 20,000 people. Africa has also managed to show that it could maintain peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Mali, and again today in the Central African Republic, where an African force has received a United Nations mandate.
At the same time, we all know that there are insufficiencies, failings and fragilities, that there is a need – and this is the need we have to confront – to prepare the African forces to address all threats and to be able to ensure they have, in their regional organizations or in the African Union, the resources they need to ensure African security.
This situation firstly concerns your continent – Africa – but also us in Europe. This is because our two continents form a single whole, subject to the same threats and facing the same dangers. Our two continents, which wish to forge even closer ties, must therefore act together to banish these risks and dominate these threats.
What are these threats? Firstly, terrorism. We have been combating it in the Sahel, and recently in Mali. But we are also confronting and fighting it in Somalia, Kenya and Libya. Not always the same groups, but all with the same face – extremism – and the same intentions – of destabilizing States, frightening populations and even conquering territories. These groups now have considerable resources, originating from all forms of trafficking, and have access to very sophisticated weaponry that even sovereign States cannot always manage to acquire.
This is why France is proposing a new military cooperation partnership, prioritizing advice, training, equipment and intelligence, in order to ensure that Africa's armies have all the resources they need to combat these threats.
I know that Europe will be present to show not only its solidarity with a friendly continent, but also responsibility in the pooling of resources and forces.
There is not only terrorism. I mentioned trafficking, all sorts of trafficking, of drugs, weapons and human beings, of protected species and ivory taken from elephants at the risk of undermining biodiversity. This fight against all traffickers needs to be implacable, because there is a link between this trafficking, terrorism, and the rebel groups that destabilize States. This is why, on behalf of France, I will advocate at the G8 for a meeting of Heads of States dedicated specifically to combating drug trafficking.
Lastly, there is another danger. We have seen it growing in recent years. That is piracy. There is piracy to both the west and east of Africa. I know that the African Union has decided to draw up an Integrated Maritime Strategy. This is a good approach, bolstering the action plans that have been formulated by regional organizations including ECOWAS and ECCAS. That was in June. Here again, I would like to announce that France will support your every effort and that it stands ready to form a common structure to coordinate your action at sea.
But beyond these responses, however necessary they are, we are aware that they will not be enough. What is the goal that we must promote, together? That goal is the creation of a rapid reaction force, in the African Union framework. This project requires command and intelligence capabilities. It needs the units of various nationalities that make up the force to be able to act jointly.
That is the responsibility of the Africans. Once again though, France is prepared to provide its full support to this force through the provision of military officers to Headquarters, and through training missions. If you so decide, France can train 20,000 African soldiers per year.
Security is thus a question of an organization, a force. But our Summit cannot boil down merely to that conception of security. For we know that security is also a matter of development – or rather, development is a matter of security. The two ambitions and requirements converge.
In this area of development, France would like to be a partner of Africa. I would like to recall that France is the country that invests most in Africa, through its businesses. France is one of the major official development assistance donors in Africa. And France is the leading destination country for African students.
But France, along with Europe, would like to be even more involved in the destiny of your continent. This is why I have facilitated the mobility of African talents and entrepreneurs, so that they can come to France and so that visas are not a mere constraint, but on the contrary an additional opportunity for exchange and creation.
The day before yesterday, in a parallel conference to today’s event on the economy, and like all stakeholders present, fully aware that tomorrow’s economy will heavily depend on the strength and vibrancy of African businesses, I stated that France could participate in a French-African Foundation for Growth. This Foundation could mobilize both public and private interests as well as French, African and European funds in order to move us together, via the Foundation, towards innovation and new technologies. The goal I have set is to double the level of trade between France and Africa in five years.
But I am also aware that action is expected from France and from Europe as regards further increasing our work for development. I have therefore decided to allocate €20 billion over the next five years to the development of Africa, in the form of donations and loans. Because I believe that Africa is the world’s new frontier which will enable us to further broaden our field of knowledge, expertise, empowerment and also prosperity, which for too many years has been lacking in Africa.
But my commitment, France’s commitment, also calls for other commitments from Africa itself, in particular transparency and good-governance requirements. Everyone here knows that it is the States which best guarantee freedoms – both public and economic – that attract the most investment. Democracy and human rights are the best weapons with which to defend stability and security. They alone are not enough, but they are a means of addressing both the disorder and inspiration of populations.
Over several years, the pluralistic election process has become the main democratic process in Africa. I frankly and sincerely believe that it is the only process possible. It is irreversible and France cannot allow any regressions or failures.
The same goes for the serious crimes committed in Africa, of which there are many: violence against women, organized crime, the crushing of a number of peoples. It is only right that those responsible for these acts be prosecuted. This is the role of the International Criminal Court - to rule on such crimes when national legal systems are unable to do so. We must place our faith in the international courts.
Peace and development are also achieved by preserving our planet. First and foremost, the responsibility falls on developed countries, as it is these countries which controlled and absorbed Africa’s resources for years. But today, we share a common responsibility, as we can see, as can you, the risks of climate change: increased desertification, deforestation, lack of water, risks for biodiversity. There is also the risk of protected species becoming extinct.
We must act urgently, both in the name of the environment and security, as climate disorder is a factor which enables certain groups to prey on poverty and distress to serve their own interests. In this area, France once again deemed that a share of its aid should be allocated to the sustainable development objectives. The French Development Agency will invest €1 billion per year on these projects.
In the same vein, at least thirteen European countries have created a financial transaction tax. This will be implemented in the coming months. Part of it could be channelled to the Green Climate Fund, and thus serve as an example to other countries, illustrating that we must all play our part in the essential efforts to preserve our planet.
This, my friends, was what I stated here in the introduction to our Summit: that we must address all aspects of peace - not only security, but also development, the environment and the preservation of our planet.
I would have liked to only have to discuss peace, but in this area too, there have been developments on the very eve of this Summit. Today, in the heart of Africa, people are suffering and are requesting our help: the people of the Central African Republic. We can no longer allow the massacres to continue, women and children to be raped, or atrocities to be committed, including in hospitals. Inter-religious conflict can get out of hand and create behaviours and situations in Central Africa which so far have not been seen.
The Security Council, and here I would like to pay tribute to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has just given a mandate to an African force to restore order, protect the population and ensure stability which can subsequently lead to elections. I stress that elections must be held, as any process put in place must lead to elections. No country can be deprived of the right to choose its leaders.
France has decided to support this African force. Its action began last night because before our Summit took place and before there was danger, I wanted France's intentions to be clear, alongside the Africans, supported by the Europeans, under a Security Council mandate. This is not just a security commitment - it is also our duty to make it a humanitarian commitment.
Today’s Summit is exceptional in every respect. It is exceptional because we are meeting the day after the passing of Nelson Mandela, a man who reminds us of our emotion when he was released from prison and came to power, and of our obligation to heed his message of peace and allow no people to be subdued, oppressed or dominated.
Our Summit is exceptional due to the issues addressed – in particular peace – and due to your involvement. All of Africa is here today – all of Africa, with its diversity, its many languages and its sometimes varied levels of development but nonetheless shared ambition: to be a continent which is united, proud and inclusive.
Since the context, the issues, and the scale of the Summit (given the presence of the African Union and the European Union) make it exceptional, our decisiveness must also be exceptional. It is for this reason that I am calling for an exceptional alliance between Africa and Europe to work in the interests of peace, development and the future of our planet.
Thank you very much.