President Macron cautions Africa on population growth

Jul 10, 2018

President Macron said African leaders must take advantage of the continent's young population by supporting entrepreneurial development.

PIC: President Macron receives coffee from Nigerian start up entreprenuer Adeyinka Tekenah, looking on is Elumelu. ( Credit: Samuel Sanya)


LAGOS - French President, Emmanuel Macron has once again stated that for Africa to be prosperous, a lot more should be done to slow down its galloping population growth.

Macron said this during an interactive session organised by the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) in Lagos, Nigeria.

The President engaged over 2000 young entrepreneurs from around Africa for close to two hours on issues ranging from globalisation, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, immigration, entrepreneurship and politics.

"We have to deal with demography. I spoke about it in the past and it was a huge scandal especially in Europe, but I am sorry; if you have 7-8 children per woman, even when economic growth is 5%, you will never end the fight against poverty," Macron said.

He added, "In Europe, centuries ago we had such large families, but ask the women today. If it is their free choice then am fine but when this situation is due to forced marriage and no education, it is crazy." 

A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report titled; "World Population Prospects," points out that of the 2.2 billion who may be added to the global population between 2017 and 2050, 1.3 billion or 59%, will be in Africa. 

The report assumes that fertility in Africa will drop from the current average of 4.7 births per woman to 3.1 in the years 2045 to 2050.

Despite the slowdown, Africa is projected to account for 26% of the global population in 2050 up from 17% in 2017.

In order to reap the benefits of a large population also called a "demographic dividend", the report points out that significant investment in infrastructure,  sufficient opportunities for productive engagement in the labour force, and sufficient investment in the human capital of children and youth through universal access to education and health care is necessary.

New entrepreneurship model needed

During his lengthy interaction, Macron backed Africapitalism, a call to action for African businesses to make decisions that increase the continents economic and social wealth as the surest path to prosperity.

"Am a strong believer in the African private sector because I believe it is the best way to change the continent.

"This is the only way to have inclusive growth and a middle class which will support new entrepreneurs and create stable politics," the President said.

He added: "I think it is no longer viable to take advantage of investment opportunities in countries without taking care of the people.

"If you do not have a vision that is sustainable to everyone around you then you are going to fail because now people are very connected."

President Macron said African leaders must take advantage of the continent's young population by supporting entrepreneurial development.

He revealed that the French government plans to invest €1 billion in Africa's private sector through Agence Francais de Development (AFD) though his "Digital Africa Initiative" plan aimed at creating a pool of entrepreneurial knowledge and business information sharing between established major French firms and startups in Africa.

During the TEF meeting, Macron over saw the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Agence Francais de Development (AFD) and the Tony Elumelu Foundation to guarantee loans acquired 70% of loans acquired by TEF entrepreneurs  through UBA bank.

Some 67 Ugandan entrepreneurs, mostly in agribusiness, education and training and manufacturing each received business start-up grants of $5,000 (about sh20m) each from the 2017 cohort of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Programme. Collectively, the non-refundable grants amounted to $335,000 (about sh1.4b).

This was in addition to a total 63 recipients in the previous 2016 cohort who received $315,000 (about sh1.2b).

These entrepreneurs can now access guaranteed loans by the French government to further grow their businesses.

Launched in 2015, by Nigerian billionaire and United Bank for Africa Chairman, Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu, the TEF entrepreneurship program is the largest African philanthropic initiative devoted to entrepreneurship and represents a 10-year, $100 million commitment, to identify and empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs, create a million jobs and add $10 billion in revenues to Africa's economy.

The programme is part of Elumelu's Africapitalism movement which is a call-to-action for businesses to make decisions that will increase economic and social wealth, and promote development in the communities and nations in which they operate.

Elumelu said that Africapitalism will ultimately help businesses become more profitable as the communities they serve become well-off consumers, healthy and better educated employees. It will also result in new entrepreneurs who go on to become suppliers and service providers to existing firms.

"Africapitalism means we cannot leave the business of development up to our governments, donor countries and philanthropic organizations alone. The private sector must be involved in the business of development," he said.

Macron noted that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area was a strategic move which would usher in bigger markets and fortunes. He noted that stopping immigration through the Sahara to Europe depends on the creation of economic opportunities for Africans in their home countries.

Globalisation concentrated wealth in very few hands

The President noted that the looming trade wars and discontent with globalization in Europe and US has a lot to do with the uneven distribution of wealth in the hands of a few which created anxiety in middle classes in the western world.

"Even though we reduced poverty and inequality at a large scale this was the positive side, but you have so much concentration of wealth on the top 1% of people. I think we made a big mistake in the past decades.

"We developed a type of globalisation not meant for everybody," he said.

"In Europe and in the US, the western world, many people feel the middle class were the victim of globalisation because jobs were destroyed. 

"We have to listen to these anxieties from the middle classes. This means we need to build a new narrative - building walls is not sustainable," he added with a swipe at President Trumps plans for a wall between the US and Mexico.

Speaking about migration, President Macron noted that lack of economic opportunity is fuelling an exodus from countries such as Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria - which are in a better situation than decades ago.

He noted that the solution to fighting the spike in immigration should start with creating more opportunities for Africans at home by encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship

"The root of this new wave of migration is due to the lack of hope and opportunities. Fighting smugglers is my top priority. We need to fix the Libya situation and the smugglers who are closely linked to terrorists," President Macron said. 

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