French President, Mr. Emmanuel Macron, Wednesday urged political and business leaders in Nigeria and other African countries to continue to take initiatives that would develop the continent, saying: "If Africa doesn't succeed, France and Europe will never succeed."
He said Africans should endeavour to change the narrative about the continent, adding that it should not allow other continents to decide its future.
Macron said this during an interactive session organised by the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) in Lagos.
According to him, African leaders must take advantage of the continent's young population by supporting entrepreneurial development.
He said: "Things are changing in Africa. Africa is young and now has leaders that are trying to reform the continent. You have the market. Africa has to decide its future and create its own world about entrepreneurship and businesses and to explain it to the world.
"Nobody should decide the future of Africa, so you have to take up your responsibility. So, the new Africa has to be built now. I do believe that, that it will be good for Africa."
According to Macron, entrepreneurship and innovation are factors required to drive Africa's transformation.
He said: "Smart people, when they are in charge are obsessed with innovation. But young people should be obsessed by innovation because that is the only way to succeed. You should be ready to disrupt the system.
"Innovation is just about how to create and at the same time to disrupt the system. I am here today, because yesterday I decided to take my risk in political life. I never asked for the permission.
"Guess what, even when I tried to get advice, the first advice was 'you should wait a little bit.' Some said not now. So, if you want to change the world, if you want to change your country, if you want to change your environment, you have to do it now."
According to him, France is committed to supporting young entrepreneurs in the continent.
He revealed that the French government plans to invest €1 billion in Africa's private sector through the French Development Agency to start the Digital Africa Initiative.
Macron said: "We need to scale and that means we need to develop some financial ecosystem such as encouraging the developing of venture capital and long-term investors. We will participate with you to strengthen and to frame the financial ecosystem of West Africa.
"Our role is to help the new generation to seize opportunities and rise to the challenge. This is what underpins a new, balanced relationship. Steve Jobs' father was a Syrian refugee. Nationality has nothing to do with the ability to succeed.
"If you think that being a Nigerian means you can't succeed then you won't. If you fight and you do succeed you will be a role model! We are facing migration. Helping Africa to succeed is good for Europe and France."
He also said the French government had also decided to work with large corporates in Africa as well.
"Private sector is very important. I am a strong believer in the ability of the private sector to contribute to economic transformation. That is the only way to have inclusive growth.
"That was why we launched an organisation for Africa's private sector to build this continent. I believe in entrepreneurship and innovation.
"We need more Africans to succeed in Africa, just as we need more Europeans to succeed, so as to change the narrative about the continent. We can reform globalisation as people succeed in every parts of the world," he said.
Furthermore, Macron said entrepreneurs should not be deterred whenever they are confronted with failure.
"Take your risk. There is no amount of risk that is too much for you to take to succeed, the first thing is to be sincere. If you want to be a leader, whether in business, politics, or anything you want to create, for you to be a front-runner, you must take a risk," he told his audience which was made up of Nigerian business leaders, chief executives of institutions in the country as well as TEF entrepreneurs.
Also at the event, the French government announced its intention to provide through the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, guarantees of up to 70 per cent of the loans under the TEF Entrepreneurship Forum, which is a 10-year, $100 million to train and empower 10,000 entrepreneurs in the continent.
Meanwhile, on the side lines of the event, one financing agreement and two commitment letters were signed between the Agence Franciase de Development (AFD), the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, UBA and Access Bank Plc for a total of €74 million, which is co-financed between the AFD and the European Union (EU).
The fund is to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy investments through the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources and Energy Finance (SUNREF).
The SUNREF programme was launched Wednesday by the Director General of the AFD, Mr. Remy Rioux, the Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe, the Deputy Managing Director of the UBA, Mr. Victor Osadolor and the President of MAN, Mr. Frank Jacob.