Emmanuel Macron, President of France, on Tuesday night made a historic visit to the New Afrika Shrine in Agidingbi, Ikeja, Lagos, home of late Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti, describing it as an iconic centre for the propagation of African culture, strength and music.
While attending an event tagged ‘Celebration of African Culture’, to inaugurate the African Cultural Season 2020, Macron recalled how he “discovered” Nigeria, Lagos and the shrine.
He said he was glad to be back to the Afrika Shrine, adding that he still holds fond memories of the place since his first visit back in 2002.
“I discovered Nigeria and a lot of my friends are here. I discovered Nigeria and I discovered Lagos and I discovered the shrine,” he said in quotes released by Habib Haruna, Chief Press Secretary to the Lagos State Governor.
“This place is an iconic place and it is a place where the best of music is given. I have to say my main memories about this place are friends, proud people, proud of their culture, proud of their art and music. I have a very different view of Africa than a lot of other people in Europe.”
Macron stressed the need for Africa and Europe, especially Frances to build a new commonality, adding that “this new commonality is not based on what is important for Europeans but what is important for Africa, about their culture, how they build their culture and promote the culture and which places are important for them about their culture”.
“Being here, I do recognize their culture and respect their views. This place is important for Africa and their culture and that is why I am here,” he said.
He also disclosed plans to host the African Cultural Season 2020 in France, which he said, would be about promoting African culture in Europe, adding that the event would be for Africa and by African artistes.
“It will include people with fashion, African movies, new generation of artistes will be coming from Africa and it will be organized by them to show Europe and France the real culture of Africa,” he said.
“The event will be financed by African leaders. It will not be sponsored by France or European businesses, but by African businesses, it is brand new. This season is a unique one and it will be the new face of Africa in Europe organize by Africans, providing what you like and what you have here.”
Macron also attended the official unveiling of Alliance Francaise, a French Cultural Centre in Lagos, on Wednesday, which he said is part of the measures to scale up the relationship between France and Nigeria.
Specifically offering the commitment of the government and people of France to development of infrastructural projects in Lagos, he said: “Thanks very much for being here; thanks very much for making this possible and to Mr Governor, we spoke yesterday and this morning together in the car… going to shrine together yesterday and going to French Alliance now.
“It’s much more quiet, much more calm and reasonable but at the end of the day, I think both of us did share the same views that we can do tremendous things together.
“Your state, Lagos, is one of the main challenges of not just Nigeria but the whole of Africa. I mean, this huge city, there is tremendous challenge about how to make people live together in peace, in a better place, and I want France to be part of this story and I do want my country and my people to be part of this experience.
“It means belonging to same values, sharing cultures, languages, literatures, music, movies, building together projects, having common economic projects and so on, and this eco system will be not just possible but stronger staying in this place.”
While welcoming Macron earlier, Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, expressed optimism that the historic visit would go a long way to break any barriers between Nigeria and France as well as foster greater collaboration for economic, social and cultural growth.
“On behalf of the government and good people of Lagos State, I welcome His Excellency, President Emmanuel Macron, President of France, to the commercial and cultural capital of Nigeria and indeed West Africa,” he said.
“We are delighted and honoured to be hosting a President of one of the world’s superpowers; a permanent member of the United Nation’s Security Council with veto rights, a prominent member of the G8 and the World Trade Organisation and a champion of Global Climate Change.
“With the exceptional characteristics of our state as the most populous, vibrant and indeed the fifth richest economy on the African continent, Lagos is the undeniable destination for business and pleasure in Africa. The new Lagos experience is being enhanced daily as we continue to create an enduring infrastructural and security architecture for the business of tourism and cultural arts to thrive. This also creates a platform for our local talents to feel a sense of belonging and encouragement.
“Mr. President, this momentous state visit shall signal the dawn of a new era between France and Nigeria, especially for the myriad of talents that have made Lagos their home.”