The French Public Investment Bank (BPI) and Business France on 9 February 2021 launched an accelerator programme aimed at promoting the development of 25 French SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) in Africa. The programme, planned over the next 12 months, Alain Taïeb, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the AGS-Mobilitas Group, will act as mentor of the participants. This initiative highlights the dynamism of French businesses and their strong interest in doing business in Africa.
“Take a bet on Africa! The African continent is a land of opportunities that must be seized now”, said Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, at the launch of the programme. “Alain Taïeb was chosen as mentor to this first group of participants owing to his long experience in, and commitment to, Africa.”
“International expansion and Africa have been part of the DNA of our family company for many years,” said Alain. “In 2016, we completed the Africa54 project, making our company the first in the world to operate in all 54 African countries. Today, we provide international mobility services from anywhere in the world to any destination in Africa. We are now focusing on our physical and electronic records and information management division as our main area of growth in the region.”
Africa: a springboard for business development
The aim of the initiative is to provide advice and to help the 25 French SMEs to realise their strong international ambitions by enabling them to increase their turnover by at least 20% on the African continent through a mix of joint ventures, partnerships and acquisition. These companies include air conditioning manufacturer Airwell-RES; machinery and equipment specialist AVN; technology equipment manufacturer Lacroix; and renewable energy company Solvéo Énergie.
These companies aim to have a sustained development in Africa. “They are beautiful SMEs, mostly family-owned,” said Pedro Novo, BPI’s Head of Export Finance and Export Promotion. “More than half of them aim to target West and Central African markets, the most traditional regions for French companies. This promotion under the French flag represents a wide variety of sectors, from construction to energy to digital, telecommunications and industry.”
But Christophe Lecourtier, Managing Director of Business France explained that the potential of the African continent is not accessible to firstcomers. “The companies in this first promotion, from all the French regions, each already have a turnover of more than 5 million euros in Africa,” he said.
Integrating into African business
The accelerator programme aims to immerse these 25 SMEs, over the 12 months, into the realities of the African continent. They will benefit from individual coaching by experts specialising in business in Africa, participate in two strategic thinking seminars and a comprehensive e-learning course, and network with business leaders to multiply connections with the Franco-African business community.
The 25 SMEs will also participate in events in France and Africa. One event, planned in Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire next June, will be dedicated to entrepreneurship. In the second half of the year, they should travel to Senegal for an event focussing on the sustainable city.
“Through this new Accelerator, launched with Business France, we have set up a tailor-made programme that provides a logical partnership that supports and prepares these French companies to project themselves on the African continent,” said Nicolas Dufourcq. Managing Director of BPI “Our goal is to synergize the two ecosystems to work more efficiently together.”
Alain Taieb and his Group have also reached out to these 25 SMEs. He says that help will be available to them in any of the 54 countries. France’s Foreign Trade Advisors (CCEF), themselves Entrepreneurs, many AGS-Mobilitas’ senior executives in Africa also being such advisors, will be additional trusted support to BPI and Business France.