Francophone Africa and, indeed some Francophone countries outside Africa, represent a sizeable, largely untapped market for UK business, and vice versa, and I hope FBBC will be an inspiration to companies looking for new opportunities and new markets.

Francophone nations absolutely do want to work with the UK, particularly now it is perceived to be easier after Brexit. The government is pushing the idea of Global Britain, so why not take a fresh look at Francophone countries? The French post-colonial control left many of these countries with similar or identical legal systems, not to mention a common currency in the CFA (West African and Central African versions) pegged to the Euro, guaranteed by the French treasury, it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that although each country has its own distinct character, if you succeed in one country you could succeed in them all. The new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is designed to make international trade easier and more accessible – using existing hubs in Anglophone markets.

Francophone countries are actively looking to the UK and other English speaking markets – and UK business will receive a warm welcome. After 25 years in education industry, including more than 15 years working in Francophone countries, I have seen a desperate desire to learn English, to understand UK culture, legal systems and commercial operations, and to work with UK partners. One of our roles is to support this development – and to help UK businesses understand and enter new markets. And there are real opportunities for your business. Countries like Cote D’Ivoire have a lower GDP than neighbouring Ghana, a regular destination for UK business, and more scope for growth in goods, services, and infrastructure development – and with less competition.

There are already notable British business successes in Francophone countries, it is not totally virgin territory and that is why I am happy that we have some of those successes stories as part of our advisory group, people who have been on the ground, dealt with everyone and have an understanding.

No international trade is easy, there are always bureaucracies, individual circumstances, and of course corruption but this is universal, and you should not ignore Francophone Africa because you think the barriers to entry are too high.  With the support of FBBC we can help you break these down and make the right connections.

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Matthew Anderson, Chief Executive Francophone British Business Council