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President Sarkozy urges revamped trade ties at Africa-France Summit

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday brought a number of new proposals to boost business ties with Africa during the 25th Africa-France Summit in Nice, France.

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France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy (r.) hugs Cameroon's President Paul Biya while South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (l.) leaves the final news conference of the Africa-France Summit in Nice, Tuesday.

Eric Gaillard/Reuters

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At the opening of the 25th France-Africa Summit in Nice, France on Monday, French President Nicholas Sarkozy unveiled plans to improve France’s often troubled but powerful relationship with its many former French colonies.

Mr. Sarkozy reiterated France’s longtime support for giving a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council to an African state, and also for an African country or country's to join the Group of 20, the club of the world’s most powerful economic nations.

“Africa is our future … the African continent is asserting itself more and more as a major player in international life," said Sarkozy. "We cannot govern a 21-century world with a 20-century institution.”

Since taking power in May 2007, Sarkozy has declared a “rupture” with past French policy, which had long preserved a paternalistic role for France towards the dozens of French-speaking former colonies in Africa. Today, Sarkozy says it is in France’s interests to change that relationship into one of equal partners.

"I am deeply convinced that it is no longer possible to discuss major world issues without the presence of Africa," Sarkozy said in an opening speech at the summit.

Focus on business

The meeting – attended for the first time by some 230 French and African business groups – is focused on strengthening mutual business interests.

Fifty years ago, 40 percent of French trade was with Africa. Today the figure is closer to 2 percent.

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