EMMANUEL Macron, 40-year-old President of France, has urged Nigerian and African youths to get actively involved in politics in order to change the fortunes of the continent.
Macron, who is currently on a visit to Nigeria, said this at the New Afrika Shrine, popularly known as “Fela Shrine” on Tuesday, where he inaugurated the African Cultural Season scheduled to hold in 2020.
Having worked in Nigeria 15 years ago as a diplomat in the French Embassy, Macron said the Fela Shrine holds many beautiful memories for him.
“I wanted to find a good occasion to come back there. I know the place and I have some memories,” he said.
“First, I think that is such an iconic place for a lot of African people and African culture. I mean Fela, Femi, Seun Kuti are obviously very famous in France and Europe.
“I mean they are big successes but the Shrine is a cultural hub, an iconic hub and it is very important for me first on a personal level, and that is why I want to say with a lot of humility that I recognize the importance of this place, I recognize the place of culture in this current environment.”
This is African energy. The one I discovered here in Lagos when I was 23. The one I am glad to see is still thriving several years later. The one I hope many Europeans will get to know. The one that is far from the African prejudice of misery. pic.twitter.com/HqFxmJn0c1
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) July 4, 2018
Describing Africa as a continent of very talented young people, Macron urged African youths not to be ashamed of their identity but to keep showcasing their talent to the entire world.
African youths should “not think their future is outside Africa”, Macron said “They have to build Africa.”
“We need to have African people speaking about Africa. What we need is young people to make this narrative. Africa needs a new generation of artists, journalists, civil society, to speak about Africa everywhere.
“I am very happy to be here. Let me remind you that this place — shrine — is a music place as well as politics which is needed to change the society. So, I will say to the youths, politics is important, be involved.”
Explaining the idea behind the Africa Cultural Season, Macron said it is an initiative to enable talented Africans showcase their talents to Europe and the rest of the world.
“What we want to launch this evening is the African Cultural Season 2020. It will be for Africans by Africans. You will have artists, painters, fashion designers,” Macron said.
“It will be organised by Africans to show France and Europe what is here and it will be financed by African leaders.
“I have a huge debt to Femi, Fela, Seun and the Kuti family. The family provides, not just this place, but for its time, its commitment, and especially the different battles of Fela, a very strong message, a message that it is possible, even now to decide your own future. Never forget.”
Present at the event was Akinwumi Ambode, Governor of Lagos State, and many of Nigeria’s music and movie stars, including Femi Kuti, Yemi Alade who both performed at the event. The night also featured a short movie skit by Kunle Afolayan,one of Nollywood’s top-rated movie directors, and featuring several Nollywood stars including Jide Kosoko, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Joke Silva, Rita Dominic, Ramsey Nouah, etc.
Earlier on Tuesday, Macron was at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa where he met with President Muhammadu Buhari and held bilateral talks. Macron and Buhari’s meeting centred on the insecurity posed by the growing rate of terrorism in the Sahel region of Africa and how France could be of help.
Macron, speaking after the meeting, promised that France will maintain its presence in Mali and other countries battling insurgency, adding, however, that France alone cannot solve all of Africa’s security problems.
“I think the main plan is an African plan and France is not the one to solve or fix African situations,” he said.
“So what we want to do is that we will intervene and maintain our presence in Africa and Sahel to fight against terrorism especially in Mali and in the region. And we will stay as long as it is requested by our friends.”