France must increase its investment in Africa and is well-positioned to do so given its historical and cultural links with the continent, the country's finance minister, Pierre Moscovici, told CNBC ahead of a summit in Paris.
At least 40 African leaders will gather in Paris for the French government-led summit on Friday, which will focus on improving security in the continent in the wake of France's military intervention in Mali and its recent deployment of troops in the Central African Republic. The summit is the biggest of its kind held by France's Socialist president, Francois Hollande, since he took power in May 2012.
Asked why it was important for France to reinforce its political and economic links with Africa, Moscovici said: "Because Africa is a continent of the future. Because Africa is a continent for investment. Because Africa is a continent for opportunities."
He continued: "We have, as a French economy, a very strong position already in Africa due to historical links, due to the presence of many African students in France, due also to the fact that we share a common past and for a lot of African countries the same language. But we need to move on to the future and now we must invest and we must seize these opportunities and develop public and private investment in Africa."
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Moscovici has drafted a report discussing a new economic partnership between Africa and France, partly as a response to China's growing economic clout in Africa.
He told CNBC that France was capable of competing against other nations in terms of economic clout in the African continent.
"We have a very strong position and from this position we can build something very strong," he said. "We are in competition and we've got to prove that we are the best. But we have obviously many, many assets, and now we are very positive, optimistic, and in a conquest of new markets."
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Moscovici's optimism came despite worrying economic data from France. While manufacturing in the euro zone overall accelerated at its fastest pace in two-and-a-half years in November, France's own manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) showed a slide in activity, coming in at 48.4, a five-month low.
Last month, ratings agency Standard and Poor's cut France's sovereign credit rating to AA from AA last Friday, citing lack of progress in economic reforms.
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