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France - Africa

Africa-France business conference kicks off

D Finnan

The second Africa-France business conference starts in Bordeaux on Wednesday, described by some as the African Davos. It aims to bring together 100 African and 100 French firms to foster new business ties.

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Coming just after the Nice summit, which saw French President Nicolas Sarkozy acknowledge the importance of African economic powerhouses such as South Africa and Nigeria, this conference sees companies from across the continent gather in what is traditionally the wine capital of France.

Over two days, African business leaders from 26 countries will have the opportunity to set up deals with French companies, who'll be looking to profit from one of the regions in the world which managed to post growth (an average of 5 per cent in 2009) despite the global economic crisis.

The event includes presentations on what they call "new dynamic economies" and workshops covering financing, the food industry and green technology.

Alain Juppe, mayor of Bordeaux, and a member of Sarkozy's ruling centre-right UMP party, will be hoping that after his opening gambit France can attempt to claw back some of the business Africa's biggest trading partner, China, has cornered.

The port of Bordeaux, historically an important trading post for sugar, coffee and precious wood, will be home to cocktail lunches and business speed-dating at the Cite Mondial venue.

And following much business chatter at the 25th Africa-France summit in Nice it seems that Bordeaux, sometimes decribed by the French as bourgeois and conservative, could enable the sort of deal-making that is usually disguised by the French with a veil of politics and diplomacy.

The list of delegates makes it clear that France is looking beyond its traditional francophone partners and hopes to diversify its economic interests across the continent.

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