France used to be a major colonial power in Africa and is now trying to restore its influence in African Continent. The Country held the Ambition Africa Forum from Wednesday through Thursday.

The Annual Event, which started last year, aimed at promoting business-to-business networks between France and African Countries.

By taking a completely different approach, which benefit local economy, China will not relive France’s colonialism in Africa. Instead of viewing China’s investment in Africa as a challenge for French businesses, France can cooperate with China while engaging in benign competition. The gloomy global economic situation and potential slowdown France fears have pulled the country back to Africa, which is a burgeoning consumer market with a 1.3 billion population.

Against the backdrop of a “Japanization” of Europe which is symbolised with sluggish economic growth and ultra-low interest rates, the French economy has become the only “bright spot” for the European economy even though its manufacturing sector is still struggling.

France’s Purchasing Managers’ Index for manufacturing fell to 50.1 in September compare to August, according to IHS Markit data, which indicates a slowed business growth. Germany, after years of strong growth, showed signs of recession. One main reason is overproduction in the manufacturing sector and the lack of a consumption market.

With Germany as an example, France understands the need to explore a fledging market like Africa amid a trade downturn worldwide. But it will not be easy.

France has left Africa with colonial trauma. A report from Radio France Internationale quoted the African Advisory Board Chairman Francois Ndengwe’s warning that Paris is “handicapped” because of its reputation as a former colonial power, which will make it “difficult to convince in particular the youth and African entrepreneurs that it is coming with a new view.”

China has never attached political conditions while providing assistance or carrying out the Belt & Road Initiative on the continent

African people would like to be more independent on the road they choose and play bigger part in the development of the continent’s economy.

The reason that China can gain popularity in Africa is that China never attached political conditions while providing assistance or carrying out the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) on the continent.

Moreover, China has been supporting the African economy and helping the local infrastructure. There were over 3,700 companies investing in Africa by the end of 2018.

Chinese companies have been cultivating local market, building up industrial clusters of manufacturing equipment, textiles and home appliances. Chinese companies created millions of job opportunities in Africa. Two thirds of them provide local people with vocational skill training.

China’s BRI on the continent can never bring back the colonialism despite the Western media’s smear. In fact, the colonialism experience France forced on some African countries and its recent push to strengthen bilateral ties with Africa serves as a lesson for China to learn from.

After the exploit and plunder during the colonial era, African economic growth needs to build up its inner strength.

Besides making profit, foreign investment needs to help drive up the local economy. Providing aid to Africa’s economy is not enough. Chinese companies investing in African countries should figure out a path that not only maximise investment return but also better help African countries gain the capability to develop their economy by themselves.

France has realised that Africa has drive to develop more independently. It has made an attempt to embrace the African continent with a different image. During this process, there are possibilities that companies from China and France can collaborate competitively within the African market.

France’s linkages with its ex-colonies still partially remain with companies such as energy giant Total and telecom major Orange, which have a strong presence in Africa. France turning to Africa will be a vital change to French companies that invest in Africa.

France intends to amend its reputation of a former colonial power by taking a different approach such as focusing on environment and sustainability related industries, which are the areas China and France can cooperate together and explore opportunities.

Due to the success of Chinese-invested companies in several sectors in the continent, France may view China as a challenge on its way back to Africa. However, benign competition does not harm the African economy. On the contrary, it helps to stimulate local innovative progress. China opens to competition while seeking cooperation.

Editor’s Note: The article reflects the author’s opinion only, and not necessarily the views of editorial opinion of Belt & Road News.