Fabrice Le Sachet (Medef): “We must develop the economic Francophonie”

Fabrice Le Sachet, Vice President and spokesperson for Medef. Francophone employers meet on 28 and 29 March in Tunisia.

What are the goals of the new alliance that employers’ organizations will launch this week in Tunisia?

The idea to breathe life into this economic Francophonie was born in the last two years. In 2020, the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, who was invited to the Entrepreneurs of France (REF) meeting, noted that the potential of our common language, French, is not being used enough to expand our exchanges. The following year, we invited 500 French-speaking bosses to Longchamp. At the end of the two-day exchanges, the French-speaking employers’ organizations signed a declaration expressing their desire to meet more regularly and adopt a permanent structure. There was an awareness of the weight of the Francophone economic space. According to the International Organization of Francophone Countries, this territory accounts for 14% of the world’s population, 16% of GDP, almost 14% of mining and energy resources, and 20% of merchandise trade. With the extreme heterogeneity of French-speaking economies, how to create a cross-platform to generate more economic flows? This is the goal of the 27 founding employers’ organizations that met in Tunisia to create a permanent organization that will coordinate our actions in the French-speaking world.

Who will lead this alliance?

For the first term, we proposed the candidacy of President Medef Geoffroy Roux de Béziers. The president will be surrounded by an executive committee, which will include regional vice presidents. More specifically, the Tunis summit will allow us to start work on seven topics: infrastructure and major projects, free movement of goods, services and people, ecological transition and CSR, finance, banking and capital, investment promotion, training, digital technologies. .

Isn’t the language of business rather English, even for French groups?

French is the third business language in the world. It is a strategic and economic asset, an intangible benefit. It should not be a hard-won language, but useful for attracting investments, partners, developing trade, creating jobs, finding customers…

What can we expect from this union?

We are already trying to respond to specific issues, such as comparing current energy regulations to identify possible standard contracts, exploring charter shipping lines between French-speaking countries, creating a business visa for French-speaking entrepreneurs, which then must be coordinated with the government authorities of our countries. Mauritius also proposed an energy efficiency program and Quebec a system of mutual recognition of vocational training. There are more than twenty specific areas of work on the horizon of six months. We will present the first results in Abidjan in October, during our 2ndas well as annual forum.

What are the most dynamic business areas in the French-speaking world?

Europe remains a priority market and we are looking at opportunities in Asia, North Africa and West Africa. These are very competitive markets where we have to demonstrate our experience, our comparative advantages, our financial instruments. Maintaining bid drafting in French is a clear overall advantage. To do this, the French must regain influence in organizations such as the European Union, the IMF and the World Bank.

“Cutting off the right to extract minerals is complete nonsense. This forces France to buy these products abroad, especially in China, and they are sometimes mined in much worse social and environmental conditions.

France has geological maps of the African subsoil, which she sells to the Chinese …

France has lost much of its mining capacity, even if groups like Areva and Eramet still exist. Our decarbonization rules have significantly reduced our room for maneuver. The Montagne d’or gold mining project in Guyana is struggling to see the light of day, with the justice system revoking a permit to operate a tungsten mine in Ariège. This forces France to purchase these products from abroad, especially from China, when they are mined in sometimes much worse social and environmental conditions. Cutting off the right to extract these minerals is complete nonsense. There is a serious sovereignty issue in terms of access to rare metals, as evidenced by the recent release of the Varin Report. This report recommends that the government secure its raw material needs for battery and wind turbine production. Medef will soon publish a white paper on the subject.

Isn’t the European Commission’s reluctance to fund gas complexes in Africa counterproductive at a time when supplies from Russia are dwindling?

European restrictions make it difficult to invest in LNG facilities abroad. Europe is being crossed by an anti-fossil energy ideology driven by the influence of opinion movements and the straitjacket of compliance rules that cut us off from emerging markets. The EU and the French Development Agency (AFD) do not want to finance this energy through their cooperation program. Look at Germany: energy transition leads to higher CO emissions2! The expected reduction in Russian gas supplies, which cost Europe 400 million euros a day, will not help matters. We can expect our neighbor to be forced to develop an alternative source such as coal. Fortunately, we have succeeded in integrating nuclear power into the European taxonomy. Both France and Belgium guard their nuclear power plants. Around 200,000 people work in France’s nuclear industry, many of them in start-ups. Mini nuclear power plants are also a solution for the future. We have experience in their construction and recycling. It may even become an export market, subject to the political and legal environment.

In which sectors does France have a comparative advantage?

This sector has agribusiness, pharmaceuticals, fashion and luxury with Kering, L’Oréal, Chanel, Hermès, LVMH, the French Gafam. The cultural and creative industries are doing well. Aeronautics begins to recover with the resumption of air traffic. Finally, there is the civil-military industry, with groups such as Dassault, Airbus, and ATR. The automotive industry remains a strategic sector, but in twenty years France has gone from producing 2 million cars a year to less than one million. Finally, we must invest in future industries such as hydrogen.

Is government support for French exports appropriate?

As part of the presidential elections, Medef makes proposals to support foreign trade. We question the effectiveness of AFD’s development aid, which still has its roots in the 1970s. The lack of cooperation between AFD and the private sector is disappointing. Unconditional aid does not do enough good for our companies and too often does good for our competitors, including Chinese companies. AFD’s credit lines to French water equipment manufacturers have been divided by 10 over ten years. Nevertheless, France allocates 6 billion euros a year to help Africa. For what result? Tenders for French and European funding urgently need to include stronger provisions on corporate social responsibility. We would also like to better allocate these resources and use them to create investment funds in the areas of water, education, agriculture, energy or infrastructure. Management companies have teams capable of identifying projects, implementing them, and mobilizing additional private capital, creating an effective leveraged effect of public money. Wouldn’t our image be significantly different if companies and investment funds received more attention when the head of the French state travels to the continent?

International Boss

Medef Vice President and Representative Fabrice Le Sacher is the founding President of Aera, an independent supplier and vendor of environmental certificates in Africa. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Medef international and Chairman of the Commission for Small and Medium Enterprises and Entrepreneurship of Business Europe, the largest employers’ union in Europe.

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