French prime minister visits newly oil-rich Ghana
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon on Saturday visited Ghana, Africa's newest major oil producer, telling President John Atta Mills that France wanted to take part in his nation's development.
Fillon travelled to the West African nation on the second stop of a three-country tour that first led him to Ivory Coast, with his final stop Gabon.
Ghana was the only one of the three on the tour that was not a former French colony, having gained independence from Britain in 1957.
Fillon said the visit showed "France's willingness to participate in Ghana's economic development," adding that his country was re-orienting its policies toward Africa to further engage non-French-speaking nations.
"Many French companies are interested in doing business in Ghana," Fillon said at a meeting with Mills, with 2011 GDP growth estimates for the country having been put at around 12 percent.
Besides its recently discovered oil wealth, Ghana is seen as a democratic model in West Africa. Mills narrowly won presidential elections in 2008 and is running again in the 2012 vote.
Mills said at the meeting that his country had followed the path of democracy as the only way of attaining peace and economic development.
But the start of large-scale oil production in December has raised concerns over the potential pitfalls, with some warning of the corruption and economic mismanagement that has plagued nearby Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer.
French foreign trade minister Pierre Lellouche was part of the delegation along with several French business executives. Lellouche was also to attend an economic forum in Accra.
Three financing agreements with French development agency AFD were signed during the visit, including one involving urban development projects, for a total of some 50 million euros.
Fillon also paid tribute to Ghana's contributions to peacekeeping efforts, with Ghanaian troops having participated in a number of missions throughout the continent.
© 2011 AFP