Interview Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux “economic Francophonie, a growth pillar of our countries”
Although the Francophonie has embarked on a new economic turnaround, actions undertaken in this direction are slow to see the light of day. Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, President of MEDEF and the Alliance of Francophone Employers, plans to accelerate the process.
Interview by Mérième Alaoui
You participated in the summit of the Francophonie in Djerba, as president of the Alliance of Francophone employers. What were your expectations?
The OIF framework traditionally structured around linguistic and cultural objectives is now tackling for the second time the economic aspect of the Francophone space. As president of the Alliance of French Employers, our presence in the OIF summit is important, to strengthen the economic ties that bind us. This subject of the economic Francophonie has been the great absentee of past discussions, even though it is a growth pillar of our countries. This is what the Anglo-Saxon countries have understood through the creation of the Commonwealth. During this meeting in Djerba, we would like to present the first results of the Abidjan meeting: how to facilitate the free movement of businessmen with the introduction of a French-speaking business visa; train our youth in digital and technical skills, which guarantee their employability and our competitiveness. The idea would be, for example, to introduce a system of recognized certifications within this space. Supporting start-ups and our national champions, vectors of shared growth is also on the agenda.
How and why was the Alliance of Francophone Employers born?
The Alliance of Francophone Employers was born the day after the REF 2020 (Meeting of Francophone Entrepreneurs) of the MEDEF which was held in Paris. It follows the questioning of the Senegalese President Macky Sall who was surprised by the absence of the French in Africa. Sharing a common language and a common law, constituting the basis of business relations, these assets have remained a dead letter.
“At a time of great decoupling of the US and Chinese economies, we hope to make the Francophonie a powerful lever for multilateral development”
The MEDEF’s desire to create this Alliance is based on an observation: the economic Francophonie has a tremendous potential that has never been exploited. We have within our reach a powerful lever of influence based on our common interests, our Francophone agenda. This new structure is designed to place the concerns of businesses at the heart of these exchanges, around an agenda shaped by the businesses of French-speaking countries. It therefore allows us to structure our exchanges and economic flows through concrete and operational actions.
You are the first president of this grouping, what is your role, what is your ambition for this two-year term?
The mission that I wish to carry out, as President of the Alliance, is to strengthen our economic cooperation in order to develop business flows between the countries of the North and the South, and between countries of the South of the Alliance, each on an equal footing. Being united by the same language as well as by converging legal systems, our strength lies in these levers of influence. They are factors of stability for investments and partnerships, giving us a competitive advantage. We have many projects ahead, in particular major infrastructure projects, the free movement of people, ecological transition and digital development, to name only the most urgent…
You advocate a “French-style Commonwealth”. How can the Alliance des Francophone Employers, and therefore the private sector, contribute to this?
In an increasingly polarized world, where the logic of regional blocs is growing, it is particularly opportune to find bridges to bolster our ties and intensify our competitiveness. At a time of great decoupling of the US and Chinese economies, we hope to make the Francophonie a powerful lever for multilateral development. In particular, it is a matter of raising awareness among the governments concerned about the economic development of this area in order to facilitate exchanges.
Let’s not forget the considerable potential of this space: the French-speaking world represents 10 million companies, a market of more than 500 million people that weighs 16% of the world’s GDP, 14% of the world’s mineral and energy resources and provides 20% of world trade. Together we have everything to build!
For this reason, isn’t there a whole narrative to change around the Francophonie, especially in Africa?
If the Francophonie has always been seen from a cultural and diplomatic angle, the Alliance of Employers, created with the aim of boosting economic flows in the Francophone space, will change our approach. Our organization must become the strong arm of French-speaking companies. Faced with the climate, digital and energy challenges, the African continent has an important role to play in this partnership. We must change our software and encourage SMEs to invest massively in Africa, increase exchanges and facilitate access to France for large African groups. Together, we must face common challenges and build an agenda of targeted actions. This will ensure a new visibility for Francophone economic interests.
Te second meeting of Francophone entrepreneurs was held in Abidjan at the end of October. What is the outcome of this edition?
The Meeting of Francophone Entrepreneurs in Abidjan brought major issues to the agenda. At the end of the summit, the joint declaration highlights three urgent points to be implemented. First, we must facilitate the movement of people within the Francophone space. Therefore, the issuance of a Francophone business visa seems essential to maximize relations between our countries. The second is to train the youth. This is critical in this future framework. The future of the Francophonie depends on it. Indeed, the transfer of skills would make local businesses more competitive and sustainable. Finally, from a growth perspective, we must encourage the emergence of startups in high value-added sectors.