In a First, France and China to Launch Joint Infrastructure Projects in Africa

Just two days prior to French President Macron’s phone call with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Feb. 16, officials of the Economic Ministries of the two countries signed an agreement to finance seven joint projects in third countries, six of which are in Africa. The projects, which are worth more than €1.5 billion, cover infrastructure, environmental protection and energy.

The announcement was made by the Chinese Ministry, while the French government did not communicate on the deal. Such official silence suggests that Paris did not want to highlight this bilateral cooperation on the eve of the EU-African Union summit (Feb.17-18), where Brussels planned to showcase its “Global Gateway” initiative, which is explicitly designed to compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Note also that Presidents Macron and Xi agreed, during their phone conversation, to increase cooperation in use of the cross-border interbank payments system in renminbi by French financial institutions, in particular for bilateral trade. According to Chinese economists, France, and eventually the EU, could include the yuan among its reserve currencies and thus diversify their reserves to avoid risks arising from the unstable dollar system.

The two leaders discussed in particular bilateral trade in agriculture and finance and, according to the French readout of the call, the two countries will “redouble their efforts to support projects in the aeronautics, civil nuclear and space sectors”.

The seven projects announced are the following:

  • Wastewater treatment in Dakar, a project supported by the French Development Agency and the China Development Bank.
  • Three hydroelectric projects in Gabon, on which the Chinese company Sinohydro and the French companies Meridiam and Eranove will work
  • Port modernization in Côte d’Ivoire, thanks to cooperation between the Chinese company China Harbor and Cacib (the investment bank of Crédit Agricole).
  • Road improvements in Guinea by the Chinese company CRBC and the French company Egis
  • A wind farm in Greece, on which China Energy Investment and EDF will cooperate.
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