The climate and renewable energies are at the heart of the projects carried out by the French Development Agency (AFD) in Morocco and elsewhere, but gas is not one of them, indicates Rémy Rioux, director general of the AFD. Through its many projects carried out by this agency, France hopes to create more links with its partners and specifically with Africa. Maintenance.
France conducts its foreign policy and its relations with the various countries of the world on several fronts, on the diplomatic level, the security and defense level, but also on development aid through loans or donations granted to countries for projects aimed at strengthening bilateral friendships.
This aid is provided through the French Development Agency (AFD) which devotes 12 billion euros per year to carry out this mission and focuses on the countries of the African continent with which the relationship is being redrawn. and where special attention is paid to youth.
Hespress FR: The concept of AFD still eludes the general public. How would you simply define it?
Remy Rioux: The French Development Agency (AFD) is the institution that implements France’s development policy, with our ambassadors, that is to say our ability to contribute, support, accompany the dynamics of sustainable development in 115 countries around the world, by strengthening the ties that unite us. It is an institution that now has a significant size, with 12 billion euros in funding each year.
AFD is a group made up of three entities: one which is the parent company which finances all the public partners and civil society, this is AFD; another that works with the private sector in countries like Morocco, called Proparco; finally Expertise France has just joined our group on January 1st, which brings the human dimension of technical assistance, training, capacity building, in addition to financing from AFD and Proparco.
It is an institution that helps development abroad, but what does it bring to France in return?
This is the title of the little book that we wrote with the philosopher and historian Achille Mbembé and entitled ” For a common world“. We live in a world where interdependencies are very strong. They sometimes tend to worry or turn into weapons and threats, so it’s very important to have tools to make them beneficial.
The most obvious of these common challenges is the climate. All our fellow citizens have become aware of the very profound climate change that is affecting us all. All the countries in the world must make the right decisions, make the right investments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible and to adapt our economies and societies to the inevitable effects of climate change.
All countries are faced with this great disruption and no one has found the solution. We are all on trajectories that must be corrected. And these solutions are emerging everywhere, and especially here in Morocco. I saw at the Polytechnic University Mohammed VI, during my visit, that innovations are being invented there. The focus is on artificial intelligence in this magnificent campus, where young Moroccans are looking for new ways to collect waste, produce energy that is more respectful of nature and the climate or target public policies. towards the poorest using images captured by drones.
The return to France is that first. There is obviously an economic logic and the creation of economic and social value in our investments, but their real return is basically of a completely different nature. It is first of all a return to friendship, ties, a positive relationship between our two countries in the face of these common challenges.
President Emmanuel Macron wanted to change this relationship and the paradigm of this development aid, in particular with Africa. We saw it with the last Africa-France summit. How does AFD implement this change and this aid which is now turning to VSEs and start-ups and no longer just to major infrastructure projects?
It is a new mandate of the president which begins. We have a new government, a new Minister of Foreign Affairs, a new Secretary of State responsible for development, the Francophonie and international partnerships. A very committed finance minister as well. A strengthened mechanism, which therefore confirms and further increases our capacity and our desire to cooperate with the rest of the world, and first and foremost with Africa.
Last year in May, there was a major summit on the financing of African economies, with more than 50 delegations and heads of state, whose guidelines we are implementing with the African public development banks. With 24 billion dirhams invested since 2017, AFD has moreover greatly exceeded the objectives that were set during the high-level meeting (RHN) between our two heads of government in 2017. Last February, President Macron also chaired the summit between the European Union and the African Union. And between the two, an unprecedented event also took place on October 8 in Montpellier to convey a message of attention, respect and the desire to cooperate concretely with African youth.
In 2060, almost one out of two young people in the world will be African. There is this fantastic push which is a great opportunity for Africa, obviously, but also an incredible challenge. I don’t think any government in the history of the world has had to administer, to govern, such a young population. It is this novelty that President Macron wanted to highlight. It’s unique and it’s exciting. We must rely on this youth, and therefore meet their very urgent expectations. You have to invest to open up opportunities for employment, creativity and expression. This priority given to young people now strongly guides AFD’s action.
We transform our instruments for this purpose. In particular, we have brought together all our actions in favor of entrepreneurs and VSEs-SMEs in a program called Choose Africa and in which we have undertaken to invest 3.5 billion euros, to take more risk and contribute to structure an entire ecosystem favorable to the creation of businesses. We support third places, incubators and financial intermediaries capable of setting up mechanisms for honorary loans, microfinance, even bringing start-ups to traditional bank financing.
To come back to Morocco, there are certain projects that Morocco would like to implement, I am thinking in particular of the Casablanca-Marrakech high-speed line and the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline which would eventually allow African gas resources to be connected to Europe. Could the AFD invest or participate in this type of project?
Entrepreneurship is essential, yes, but you also have to think about major infrastructures, you’re right! The two go together, because the solutions are not just private and because the public must create the conditions for a lot more private investment, as Morocco is planning. Because private investment is only possible if there is physical and financial infrastructure, if there is public investment to bring about public-private partnerships, and if there are regulations that create a favorable business climate. It is therefore also necessary to work very actively with the government and all the major public entities, as we do in the Kingdom and all over the world.
I went to Kenitra to the Atlantic free zone. This public platform, supported by the CDG group through its subsidiary MedZ, is a great success. Nearly 40,000 jobs have already been created there, with the establishment of many companies in barely ten years. AFD is proud of its exceptional partnership with the CDG group and of having notably contributed to financing the Kenitra industrial zone in 2012.
And we are now working on the next step: the decarbonization of these large industrial areas to reduce their CO2 emissions and thus contribute to meeting the ambitious commitments made by the Kingdom to fight against climate change. I very much appreciated my meeting with Nadia Fettah Alaoui, the Minister of Economy and Finance, and with Laila Benali, your Minister of Energy and Sustainable Development. After more than two years without physical meetings, it was time to meet again to discuss your Moroccan New Development Model (NMD), redefined in April 2021 and which is being transformed into an investment plan.
With regard to the energy transition, we signed a memorandum with the Minister to help the Kingdom define its long-term trajectory for the climate by 2050, with the common ambition of maximizing the share of renewable energies in your mix, which presupposes massive investments to mobilize the enormous potential of your country in this field. It is in this direction that I wish to direct the new financing of the AFD, towards the cleanest energies. Know that 85% of AFD’s investments in Morocco since 2017 have a positive and measurable effect on the climate.
I started from the observation that gas is still a clean energy, and given the ambient international climate at the moment because of the crisis in Ukraine…
You will agree, at the very least, to agree with me that gas is not a renewable energy! There will remain fossil fuels in the energy mix, of course, but I believe that we all have an interest in ensuring that this share is as small as possible in the future. You know, Europe is also very severely impacted by the war in Ukraine, which has led to a very sharp rise in the price of raw materials, and gas in particular.
The European Green New Deal could be implemented on an accelerated basis over the next few years to rebalance our energy mix and make it less dependent. I do not believe that Africa and Morocco will escape comparable developments, especially for countries importing coal or hydrocarbons. I believe that we all have an interest in developing our own clean local energy production capacities and you have great potential in Morocco that you are already exploiting in renewable energies, solar and wind power.
And there is also this big file, still a bit mysterious, of green hydrogen, on which everyone is doing studies to see how it can evolve in the future. I am not advanced enough to tell you if this is the solution but we are working on it at AFD and I see companies, French in particular, which are beginning to invest in this sector. To be continued, all together!