Marc Cagnard business france ambition africa

Africa Tribune : You have just taken up your duties as General Manager for Africa south of the Sahara at Business France. What is your background?

Marc Cagnard : I have worked for Business France for several years and I have lived in several countries. I took up my duties as Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at Business France on 1 September. I come from the “France Network”, which includes Team France Export. Until now I was based in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in charge of international affairs within the regional CCI.

What is your experience of Africa?

I have gained experience in several developing countries, but Africa is the first for me. Previously, I was responsible for the Near and Middle East area in Business France. I also practiced in Vietnam and Brazil. I know the problems that the emerging countries face. We can find similarities in Africa with what is observed in Brazil, for example.

What does Africa represent in terms of obligations for Business France compared to other regions of the world?

It is one of our agency’s three priorities. It is also a national priority. To date, we have 80 employees on the continent, we have around ten companies and around twenty private partners on the start-up side and 70 in total. In terms of tools, we have boosters and accelerators available for businesses. Business France works closely with BPI France and with AFD, the French development agency -especially Proparco-, as well as with the main French players operating in Africa. We try to create maximum synergies so that our efforts are as effective as possible.

What are the priorities you have set for yourself within the sub-Saharan Africa division?

We are committed to an orientation on support-export of French companies, so that they meet local partners who will be importers or distributors. We want to push our companies to establish themselves on the continent. Our other strong mission is to attract African investors to France. They are more and more. The investor’s perspective is generally to buy Made in France to re-export it to Africa or within the African diaspora (…) In South Africa, a large pharmaceutical company has bought a production of GsK based in Normandy (Aspen has invested 70 million euros in the development of a new filling line for syringes filled with Fraxiparine, Arixtra and Mono-Embolex, anticoagulants for thromboembolic problems, in 2014, editor’s note).

How are French companies in Africa distributed?

To date, we serve around 2,000 French companies in Africa, including around a quarter in the Maghreb. In terms of activity sectors, we are in 4 major sectors: industry, clean-tech, -which also includes energy, mobility and environment. We also serve the agriculture and livestock sector, technology and finally everything related to the art of living and health. Nevertheless, there is interest in all sectors of activity.

How did you define this new edition of Ambition Africa and what are its highlights?

Last year we were in a post-Covid 19 period, this year we present a new partnership approach between Africa and France, between Africa and Europe. Needs arose after the crises. There is a need to support Africa in its transitions. In particular, we work to support industrialization through “co-industrialization”, which is a strong theme in Ambition Africa 2022, to help African sectors structure themselves.

Faced with crises, Europe also needs to be in a “win-win” partnership with Africa on issues related to security, sovereignty and diversification of supplies (…) The number of people registered for this event has never been so big. important: 47 African countries are represented, more than 700 Africans participate, including a hundred by video conference. We notice this year a strong presence of Africans from the eastern part of the continent, and especially from Rwanda.

In his speech today, Christophe Lecourtier, CEO of Business France, emphasized the importance of ” human in the relationship between Africa and France. However, this relationship is undermined by an anti-French sentiment that incites the population of the Sahel. To what extent does this situation affect French entrepreneurs who want to move towards Africa?

We are mainly in countries where these questions do not arise. There is great demand from French companies for West Africa. This is undoubtedly linked to a historical and linguistic proximity. In addition, interest in East Africa is growing more and more, especially in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia. Southern Africa is still seen as remote and perhaps more complex by French entrepreneurs at the moment, but we still serve 200 companies there a year.

France has been refocusing its relationship with Africa around youth and the creative and cultural industries (CCI) for months, topics that were not on the Ambition Africa program this year…

We will in a few weeks, with a South African cluster, Proparco and Expertise France, organize an event which will be centered around CCIs in a broad sense, in South Africa, oriented towards video games. In the digital sector, we will also have AfricaCom in November, a large fair that will be held in Cape Town, where we will be present with about fifteen companies.

How do you measure the impact of an event like Ambition Africa?

It is difficult to quantify, but last year two thirds of the invited companies had started commercial negotiations there. Moreover, the returns every year of African investors show that they find their account.

What are the next meetings organized by Business France?

We organize more than 70 events in sub-Saharan Africa and more than thirty in the Maghreb each year. There will be this meeting focusing on the accelerator we are setting up with BPI France in Senegal in December. At the end of the year, there will also be missions from French regions, especially Normandy in the Ivory Coast, and next week (interview conducted on October 4, editor’s note) we will organize an event with Ethiopian Airlines, to meet the needs of its air fleet and land infrastructure. Fifteen French companies will travel to Addis Ababa.