By Mosunmola Ayobami, Ilorin
French Ambassador to Nigeria, Emmanuelle Blatmann has said she is impressed by the clear vision of Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and his deep understanding of contemporary issues of sustainable development and governance.
Speaking during a courtesy visit to Government House in Ilorin on Tuesday evening, Blatmann said the governor’s focus on agribusiness, garment production, tourism, ICT, renewable energy, and entertainment shows he is a visionary who truly understands the direction he is headed as a chief executive.
Blatmann said the French government is open to immediate partnership with Kwara under him, beginning in February with a bilateral talk on how to develop the Lata Grazing Reserve and make a new frontier of socio-economic growth.
The ambassador said her government plans to approve investments in various businesses at the Reserve and the state economy by at least 10 French firms.
“We want to acknowledge the fact that we have been working on a project that is dedicated to the Lata grazing reserve. There will be a committee that will meet in February in Paris at the French Treasury in order to formally award a grant dedicated to the development of the grazing reserve.
“More than 10 French companies have been successfully mobilised into all necessary and complementary areas such as pasture improvement, animal feeding, veterinary and medicinal animal help; bovine genetics and reproduction; and milk production and processing with a leading company in milk production around the world,” she said.
Blatmann said a committee will be put in place in February to work on the feasibility study ahead of contract award, and that the implementation will commence in 2024.
The French Ambassador also signified interest in partnering Kwara on some of its key projects like Innovation Hub, Visual Arts Centre, digital literacy and cultural development, including how to promote the French language in local schools and exchange programme that may see some Kwarans go to France.
“We are aware of different projects that your government has initiated such as the Innovation Hub, Visual Art Centre, and others. If you need any partnership that you would like us to work on, we will be very happy to do so. Something like cinematography, film making, fashion, and all those cultural things.
“After the approval in February, it will take about 10 months (the beginning of the year 2024). This is a grant that was allocated by the French Treasury in response to a need that was expressed by your government.
“We are also very committed to promoting teaching and learning of French language throughout Nigeria, and interested to also partner with Kwara on this if you find it useful. We believe it is an asset for the state as it offers an employability advantage, especially that Nigeria is surrounded by French speaking countries.
“I am quite impressed by the clear vision you have for the Kwara State. I know you are very involved in gender equality and cultural development, but I can see it goes far beyond all that. I must say that a lot of what you have said is really opening new prospects and I think there are many interesting things we can do together. We are ready to work with Kwara state because of you and your team,” she added.
AbdulRazaq, for his part, said the administration has been taking steps to partner with France in agriculture and livestock to check the lingering conflicts between headsmen and farmers, and promote food security in the state.
“Our herders are largely on the move. Something has to give to make them more sedentary. There has to be genuine efforts in that direction for the good of all. With rapid evolution, urbanisation, climate change, reduction in water bodies and properties, and grazing land, there will be more challenges for herdsmen and other economic groups. For this reason, we have been seeing conflicts with farmers and others.
“So, developing grazing reserves and giving land titles to herdsmen will also create food security for us. It will be a win-win situation. That is why we seek your support and expertise in putting up a good master plan (good feasibility study) on the Grazing Reserve, which will be sustainable. Yes, it will take time to put the programme in place, but it is just important to get it right. We see a great future in partnering with France in agriculture because France seems to be the master of the game in that sector with a lot of expertise,” he said.
The governor also mentioned other areas of interest for partnerships, including creative industry, energy transition, production, and consumption, adding that attention is fast shifting to solar energy to source light and drive economic growth.