By Jean Ambele
France has pledged to strengthen bilateral trade and investment cooperation to help Nigeria to diversify its economy.
Mr Denys Gauer, Ambassador of France to Nigeria, made this known at the French National Day celebration which took place at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja on Friday.
Gauer said that Nigeria was France’s strongest African trading partner and that the government of France had taken measures to help Nigeria diversify and develop its economy.
”Nigeria is already our first trading partner in Africa and we have a good and strong bilateral relationship.
“I continue to urge and encourage many French companies and businessmen to come and invest in Nigeria due to the opportunities available in Nigeria.
”Although we had experienced some difficulties due to forex values, we do have a good number of French businesses expected to come to Nigeria to be part of the growing economy.”
He said the French Development Agency (AFD), which opened its office in Abuja in 2008, has provided over 1.3 billion euros to finance development programmes in Nigeria in sectors such as power, transportation, agriculture and more.
Nigeria had depended on oil so much and now Nigeria was ready to diversify its economy and France was happy about that.
”France is still known to buy a lot of oil from Nigeria which is almost worth three billion euros though the numbers dropped last year because of the reduced price of oil and the economic difficulties in Nigeria.
”This explains that Nigeria is a strong strategic partner of France thought we certainly see the need for an increase in trade between France and Nigeria which we are working on,’’ Gauer said.
Gauer also said that his country was strongly engaged in the fight against terrorism.
“France helped Mali when terrorists were on the verge of taking control over the country and we then extended our efforts to the whole Sahel region.’’
He said that France was instrumental to the creation of the G5 Sahel force, a common force of the five countries, which built on the same model as the multilateral joint task force to combat Boko Haram.
”Concerning the lake Chad Basin, we are very pleased with the determination of the Nigerian armed forces and by the now positive cooperation between the neighbouring countries of Nigeria.
“We will continue to support all efforts to restore security, both regionally and through our increasing cooperation with the Nigerian armed forces,” he said.(NAN)