Boost for Bay’s French connection

STRENGTHENING RELATIONS: French ambassador to South Africa, Christophe Farnaud, at the Alliance Francaise offices in Richmond Hill during a two-day visit to Nelson Mandela Bay

New ambassador to South Africa visits ‘beautiful city’ to bolster ties with business, political leaders

New French President Emmanuel Macron’s first official trip beyond Europe being to an African country was the clearest indication of his position on Africa and bodes well for the rest of the continent, French ambassador to South Africa, Christophe Farnaud, said.

He described Macron’s visit to Mali earlier this month as a good sign that Africa and South Africa would be a priority for France.

“It is the best proof that Africa will be on top of his agenda,” he said.

“He is fully aware of the importance of the continent for the world and for France especially.

“But Africa is for Africans first. I want to be very clear on that.”

Farnaud spoke at the Alliance Francaise offices in Richmond Hill yesterday during a two-day visit to Nelson Mandela Bay. He took up his new post in January. He said he was impressed with Nelson Mandela Bay as he had been visiting various cities since taking up office at the French embassy in Pretoria.

Some of his visits included meeting French companies with a presence in the metro, including automotive parts manufacturer Faurecia, renewable energy developer InnoWind and wool trading and processing firm Segard Masurel.

He also met mayor Athol Trollip.

“It is my first visit to this beautiful city in this beautiful region,” Farnaud said.

“In many ways I am still a newcomer to the country.

“Having to strengthen and promote the French and South African relations, part of my work is to better understand the country.”

He said the aim of his visit was to bolster relations among the embassy, French businesses and the political leadership, and to gain insight on how to strengthen French-South African relations and identify economic opportunities.

While many considered France an economic powerhouse, it could not rely on its own power and required stable partnerships on an international level.

“For us, South Africa is a key partner,” Farnaud said.

South Africa was France’s first trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than 360 French companies investing in the country and creating more than 37 000 jobs.

“French companies are in many sectors like transport, cosmetic products, energy, logistics and also digital economy, which is key,” Farnaud said.

A French Tech Hub had also been created in South Africa to support start-ups and existing businesses.

Farnaud said more opportunities existed for France and South Africa to partner with each other, especially in the energy sector.

While the green economy remained a priority, a strong nuclear programme was also important. France would avail itself as a possible partner in South Africa’s proposed nuclear programme.

“France will be part of the competition in a fair and transparent manner,” Farnaud said.

“There will be other competitors, we know it. But we will be among the competitors.”

He said a strong nuclear programme could also open up opportunities for small businesses and further job creation, a priority for South Africa.

Farnaud, 52, a career diplomat, has previously served as ambassador to Greece and as diplomatic adviser to the prime minister.

He said his wife, Helene, was employed by the French government in Paris and she visited South Africa with their three children.

On the terrorism attack in Manchester, he said: “We have been through it repeatedly but all countries and all people in the world must unite.

“The greater the coordination and the greater the cooperation the better.

“For France this fight [against] terrorism] will go on for as long as needed.”

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