Economic relations between France and Africa


France is an important trade partner for Africa and is the second-largest exporter to the continent. The goal is to enhance partnerships between French and African businesses in order to create new forms of cooperation.

Long-standing and vibrant presence of French businesses in Africa

The economic partnership between Africa and France, which has long been present in the economic landscape of many of the continent’s countries, is growing apace with the strong growth in African countries. Since the early 2000s, foreign direct investment in Africa has grown faster than anywhere else in the world. France has been a player in this general trend by diversifying the countries and sectors it invests in. France also benefits from a compact and extensive network of subsidiaries which generate many investments in countries where they are present. In order to enhance their presence, French companies are investing heavily in Africa. The latest FDI stocks and flows on the African continent indicate an increased French presence keen to participate over the long term in the trends emerging in Africa.

French FDI in Africa (2017)

  • Ten-fold increase between 2000 and 2017
  • Third-largest FDI stock after the United Kingdom and the United States
  • 30% of FDI destined for North Africa (including 20% for Morocco)
  • Growing investment in sub-Saharan Africa: Up 6 percentage points between 2014 and 2017
  • The main beneficiary in East Africa is Portuguese-speaking Angola which has received €8.7 billion in French investments, followed by Nigeria with nearly €8.6 billion. French investment stock in South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal totals €2.5 billion, €2.3 billion and €2.1 billion, respectively.
  • Kenya and Burkina Faso are the countries with the largest growth in French foreign direct investment for 2015-2017 (up 57% and 21% respectively)
  • Ever increasing trend towards the renewable energy, digital and sustainable cities sectors.

French businesses in Africa

  • Over 1,100 French groups present in Africa with over 2,109 subsidiaries
  • One of the leading job creators in Northern Africa: nearly 470,000 jobs created directly and indirectly by French economic presence
  • In Angola, French businesses are responsible for creating over 25,000 direct and indirect jobs and over 17,000 jobs in Côte d’Ivoire.

French businesses actively strive to have a positive impact on local societies. Most of them provide internal professional training programmes for their employees. They aim to respect the international environmental, social and safety standards, and to promote best practices with regards to quality. Taking into account the socio-environmental impacts of their activities, something which is now present across all sectors, gives a significant comparative advantage in an ever more competitive context.

Special trade relationship with Africa

French exports to sub-Saharan African accounted for 2.4% of all French exports (€11.1 billion in 2017).

In 2016, the trade surplus with sub-Saharan African reached the highest level for 10 years at €3.5 billion. It stood at €2.9 billion in 2017.

Over a third of French exporters export to Africa (38,000 French businesses exported to Africa between 2002 and 2017).

The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affair’s Business France agency has strengthened its presence in recent years to support French businesses on the ground, with new offices and satellites in Angola, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Senegal, Nigeria and Ethiopia between 2012 and 2016.

Bolstering economic cooperation links and creating new partnership types

France wishes to bolster its economic relations through Business France and its embassies. Growth on the African continent is in itself an indicator of what is at stake: growth has remained at an average of 5% over the last decade, one of the fastest growth levels in the world, and certain African economies continue to grow at over 7%.

More opportunities for meetings between French and African private sectors across the continent are key to bolstering relations.

The annual “Ambition Africa” event, managed by Business France, is one such opportunity. This France-Africa business forum enables over 600 businesses, including 350 African businesses, to meet over three days The event is supported by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and aims to familiarize French businesses that are not yet present in Africa with the continent’s key trade issues.

France also encourages promising and innovative Franco-African partnerships. French and African businesses have complementary know-how, skills and technologies, particularly in the fields of health, digital technology, renewable energy, training, retail, sustainable cities, delegated management and public-private partnerships.

Lastly, improving the business environment is also a priority as progress varies from country to country. Political and financial governance is a key condition for the development of the private sector and the continent’s ability to attract investments. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most represented region in the World Bank’s 2018 Doing Business rankings for business environment reform with three countries present in the world’s top 10 (Nigeria, Zambia and Malawi).

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Updated: February 2019