In his 24-hour visit to Lagos, Emmanuel Macron, the French President was arguably the most talked about personality in the city’s business and entertainment scenes.
Known for its trend-savvy, creativity and boisterous youthful population, Lagos perhaps has been prepped for many years to witness the kind of frenzy generated by the visit of the 40-year old. Macron himself, could not have struck a better chord that resonated with millions of the Lagos youths than his choice of the iconic musical base of the famous late Afrobeat originator, Fela Anikulapo Kuti – Afrika Shrine.
Though, Fela, in his lifetime did not perform any musical show at the new African Shrine, his famous son, Femi Anikulapo Kuti who took after him in the Afrobeat genre, built and maintained the edifice that has come to sustain Fela’s legacy through the annual ‘Felabration’ event.
Through Felabration’s art competitions, Afrobics Talent Hunt, Fela Debates, Symposium and Secondary Schools Debate, among other programmes, numerous young talents in Lagos have been discovered. Thus, when Afrika Shrine was announced among places to be visited by the French President, it triggered a profound buzz expectedly among celebrities, musical acts and Nollywood stars.
But for Macron, the choice of Afrika shrine was not accidental. As an intern with the French Consulate in Lagos 16 years ago, the French President confirmed how he, in the company of his friends had often sneaked into the shrine to relate with the locals and explore the real “africaness” exemplified in the shrine’s propagation of African culture, strength and music.
“I discovered Nigeria and a lot of my friends are here. I discovered Nigeria and I discovered Lagos and I discovered the shrine,” Macron said at an event, tagged “Celebration of African Culture” to inaugurate the African Cultural Season 2020 at his memorable visit to the shrine. “This place is an iconic place and it is a place where the best of music is given. I have to say my main memories about this place are friends, proud people, proud of their culture, proud of their art and music. I have a very different view of Africa than a lot of other people in Europe.”
Macron said there is a need for Africa and Europe, especially France, to build a new commonality that is not based on what is important for Europeans but what is important for Africa, about its culture and how the built the culture promotes places that are important for them about their culture.
He also disclosed plans to host the African Cultural Season 2020 in France, which he said, would be about promoting African culture in Europe, adding that the event was going to be for Africa and by African artistes. “It will include people with fashion, African movies, new generation of artistes will be coming from Africa and it will be organized by them to show Europe and France the real culture of Africa. The event will be financed by African leaders. It will not be sponsored by France or European businesses, but by African businesses, it is brand new.”
In another demonstration of his passion for arts and cultural promotion, he led dignitaries to officially unveil Alliance Francaise, a new French Cultural Centre in Ikoyi, Lagos. The Centre with a reputation for French language and cultural promotion has nine other centres in Enugu, Ibadan, Ilorin, Jos, Kano, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Owerri and Port Harcourt.
Macron said the launch of a new Cultural Centre was part of the measures to scale up the relationship between France and Nigeria, while also specifically offering the commitment of the government and people of France to development of infrastructural projects in Lagos.
Within the business circuit, his visit also revved tremendous excitement. Meeting under the platform, France-Nigeria Business Forum, leading business stakeholders from Nigeria and France discussed challenges, opportunities and partnerships to be explored in the key area of agriculture, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Sustainable City as well as renewable energy.
The French Secretary of State to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Mrs Delphine Geny-Stephann said in an address that the relationship between Nigeria and France is one that is of pivotal interest to President Emmanuel Macron who believes in sustainability and better result.
The Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), Ms Yewande Sadiku also said with Nigeria strategic location at the heart of Africa, it is expedient that every efforts geared towards the country’s success must be deployed at all times.
Macron took the notch higher when he declared that it’s government would be injecting a total sum of 1billion Euros, amounting to N500 billion into private sector businesses across Africa. He made the disclosure at an interactive session he had with Young African entrepreneurs hosted by the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF).
He also witnessed the signing of financing agreement and two commitment letters between Agence Francais de Development (AFD), the Manufacturer Association of Nigeria, Access Bank and United Bank for Africa for a total of the equivalent of 74million Euros co-financed between AFD and the European Union.