The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has pledged to invite young Africans rather than their political leaders to a key France-Africa summit in a video call with the actor Idris Elba.
The Élysée Palace said Elba, a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations’ international fund for agricultural development, had asked to speak to the French leader. The Guardian was the only newspaper invited to attend the discussion at the Élysée, which marked the start of the One Planet biodiversity summit in Paris.
Macron also announced that he would increase France’s contribution to the International Fund for Agricultural Development from €57.8m to €86.7m.
Elba and his wife, Sabrina Dhowre Elba, asked the president to join them in their campaign to stop the economic shock caused by Covid-19 triggering a global economic crisis, especially in poor African countries.
During the 40-minute exchange, held in the presidential palace’s Salon Vert (Green Room) on Monday, Macron, who spoke in English, announced he would not be inviting any African leaders to the annual Afrique-France summit in the southern city of Montpellier in July.
“A lot of countries have this kind of summit … post-Covid we thought about how to completely change this summit, build something new. Maybe it will fail, we decided to build a new summit. There will be absolutely no African leader invited, we will just invite young people from everywhere in Africa involved in agriculture, civil society, business, culture, sports …
“Coming from Africa and saying what they want for Africa. They will decide what they want.”
He said it was important to include the young from Africa and particularly the African diaspora in the fight to save the world’s biodiversity.
“We have to reinforce the African ownership of these kind of initiatives. One advantage I have is that I’m not part of the generation that participated in colonisation or this kind of behaviour. I’m here to help and facilitate African ownership. Everything we can do is to help African people and companies and initiatives to succeed,” Macron said. “This is what we owe Africa.
“I think where we can work very strongly and clearly together is that we can build this kind of initiative, mobilise money and commitments from governments but we need to mobilise African young people.”
He added: “Sometimes you put money on the table and this money is captured by governments with bad behaviour … by big companies, sometimes American and European companies making their own business in Africa, and this is useless. The only way to make this sustainable … is to make sure it is captured by African young people and concretely this is what we intend to do.”
Macron invited Elba and his wife, who were speaking from Australia where the actor is filming, to join him in a visit to Chad, one of the countries benefiting from the Great Green Wall of Africa, the world’s most ambitious reforestation project.
“We made a very important work on the African diaspora in France. One of our big problems is that we never, and it’s probably part of our history, we never made people coming from the diaspora feel that they are an opportunity for France. One of my aims is to change this behaviour, and the way we look at them, and how they look at themselves. I think this is the way to build a whole new model for Africa and for them to take ownership,” Macron said.
Sabrina Elba said she appreciated Macron’s comments: “What the diaspora will appreciate is to see the understanding and the change of thinking that it’s not that Africa needs France so much, but that France needs Africa. When you look at rural communities and the food they provide to the world, that shift is already happening. People are beginning to appreciate that if you give the youth in Africa the right opportunities we can accelerate progress on implementing nature-based solutions and nature-based agriculture to ensure we can live in a food-secure climate-resilient world.”
Idris Elba said he would like to work with the president. “At a time when youth and the world looks at leadership with some scepticism, it’s more important than ever that people see themselves in their leaders. I think the diaspora is looking for that.”
Source: The Guardian