Whole of Africa, or seeing Africa differently

30 million km2. 1.2 billion inhabitants. 2,000 modern languages. 54 countries. 5 different climates. A single continent. Yet Africa is still systematically understood in a dual manner: North Africa on the one hand, and Sub-Saharan Africa on the other. This is, in particular, the framework of interpretation adopted by donors in their approach to relations with the continent.


The two sub-regions have an increasing number of common issues, however. This is firstly due to the increase in the flows between them. In addition, the Saharo-Sahelian region holds key challenges for the continent, poorly understood and addressed. The area is at the same time a source of vulnerability on both sides – desert encroachment, water management and security risk, etc – and of opportunities – enhanced management of natural spaces, increased trade.


These factors call for a continentwide approach based on reflection, partnerships and actions devised at this level.


Interview with Rémy Rioux, AFD's Chief Executive Officer.



On 12 April 2017, AFD organized a symposium entitled: “Whole of Africa: The Issues of a Continentwide Approach” at the Institut du Monde Arabe. Why was this theme and this perspective chosen to discuss Africa? 

The idea of the symposium was based on a simple intuition. What would happen if we stopped, in our minds and in our organizations, splitting Africa in two, between North Africa on the one side, and Sub-Saharan Africa on the other? What realities and dynamics would appear before us if we moved away from a dual vision of the continent? One Africa, regional Africas, other key elements?  

“Whole of Africa” is an invitation to take a fresh look at Africa. We invited French and African entrepreneurs, academics, and also regional, national and pan-African donors to discuss this. We had the great honor of receiving Alpha Condé, President of the Republic of Guinea and current Chairperson of the African Union, as well as Pierre Gattaz, President of the French employers' federation MEDEF . Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, concluded our work. I thank all of them very much.


Africa is AFD’s priority (50% of annual international financial commitments). What is AFD’s current strategy for Africa? What issues are involved in this continentwide approach?

AFD’s strategy is clear: to do our utmost for Africa given our financial capacities, and in line with the mandate entrusted to us by the Government. Africa is obviously central to AFD’s activity. Over 500 of our staffers work there. In 2016, we committed EUR 4bn on the continent, i.e. 50% of our activity in foreign countries. We are gradually going to move towards a target of EUR 5bn, in order to meet the commitment made by the French President at the Bamako Summit to earmark EUR 23bn for Africa by 2021.

The African priority also leads to a strong commitment to the fight against climate change. By 2020, AFD will earmark EUR 6bn for access to energy in order to accelerate the electrification of the continent. This includes EUR 3bn for renewable energies, via the AREI initiative launched at COP21. Adaptation to climate change will be a cornerstone for our operations in Africa.

It is essential to tackle crises, as there is no development without security and no security without development. Our capacity to take action is set to increase thanks to the new Facility dedicated to addressing vulnerabilities. It has an annual allocation of EUR 100m, financed by the Financial Transaction Tax, which will allow us to intervene in crisis zones, particularly in the Sahel region, around Lake Chad, and in the Middle East.

AFD wants to promote African research. We are doing so in Côte d’Ivoire and Ethiopia, by mobilizing national research institutes and think tanks and fostering a strategic dialogue on public policies between academic experts and public decision-makers. We will be doing this even more in the future.

We are going to work even more closely and in an even more operational manner with our peers, and in particular with the network of international development banks, especially African banks. We have a strong relationship with the World Bank and African Development Bank . We also have partnerships with our counterparts in the International Development Finance Club (IDFC) – in Africa, they are BOAD, DBSA, the Trade and Development Bank, and Morocco’s Caisse de Dépôts et de Gestion. We share with them the domestic foothold, the projection beyond our borders, and long-term investment for the benefit of the populations we serve.

Finally, thanks to the strategic alliance with the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (CDC), AFD is going to finance infrastructure throughout the continent. Last week in Ouagadougou, we launched, with Pierre-René Lemas, CEO of CDC, one of the largest equity infrastructure funds operating notably in Africa, with an allocation of EUR 600m.

The new strategy for Africa will allow us to support the major ongoing transitions on the continent (demographic and social, energy and digital, ecological and territorial, political and citizen-based), by renewing our vision, our instruments, our organizations and our counterparts. The objective is to meet the demand of our African partners and support their sustainable development, with respect and ambition.


What messages do you retain from this symposium?

The discussions were highly instructive. The speakers confirmed our initial intuition. By considering Africa as its States do, as its inhabitants see it, we will be able to renew the way in which we work there.

We need to be able to zoom in and zoom out, in short, to find the right framework for analysis and action in order to address African opportunities and create ties with Europe, with France.

We have witnessed, yet again, that Africa is in movement. Africa is growing stronger. Africa is innovating. The sustainable development policy must work “both ways” – there are a number of innovations in Africa, it is up to us to identify them, raise awareness of them, and bring them back to France. This is what our partners tell us.

It strikes me that companies have shifted to a continental vision. Markets are often still national, but the corporate strategies spread all over the continent.

Finally, the speakers said that development is also a matter of representations. The way in which we say or consider our realities can promote or hinder development. In this new “Whole of Africa” framework, do we know how to deliver more development, free up more energies, tap into them and transform them into projects? I believe that the symposium modestly allowed for a positive answer and the identification of initial avenues for action.


More information about the "Whole of Africa" symposium

#WholeofAfrica on Twitter

Last update in May 2017

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