Atlanta has the opportunity to become the “gateway to Africa” for U.S. businesses, outgoing French consul general, Jean-Paul Monchau, told GlobalFax during an interview last week in his Buckhead office. Mr. Monchau will leave his post in Atlanta later this month to become the French ambassador to Zambia and Malawi.
“There is nowhere else in the U.S. that you can find ingredients like this,” he said, citing the city’s already-established affiliation with the continent through such Atlanta-based organizations as CARE, the Carter Center, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Coca-Cola Co. and Habitat for Humanity.
Mr. Monchau pointed specifically to the work of the Carter Center in monitoring democratic elections in Africa, and to Coca-Cola’s plans to use their distribution networks to disseminate information about AIDS to remote villages, as examples of the city’s potential impact on the continent, and on the future of the U.S. government’s Africa policy.
The increasing economic ties between Africa and Atlanta, coupled with direct flights to Johannesburg, also add to the city’s suitability as a hub for African business, and participation in African social issues, he said.
Mr. Monchau is scheduled to arrive in Lusaka, Zambia, in mid-September, immediately following an annual conference for French ambassadors held in Paris. His new duties involve the oversight of an embassy of 25-30 people.
France’s economic position in Zambia counts Alcatel, Bouygues, a worldwide construction company; Peugeot and Renault, both automobile manufacturers and Suez, an energy and water services provider, among those French firms operating in Zambia, said Mr. Monchau.
The potential for France to help in matters of health and healthcare is tremendous, he added. To this end, Mr. Monchau explained that France has changed its policy toward Africa in recent years, and is now committed to helping independent African countries “take their future into their hands.”
In his present role, Mr. Monchau has been instrumental in promoting France and the European Union (EU) through events like Francophonie and Georgia’s EU Day celebrations, which brought together Atlanta’s consular community, trade representatives and businesses for the second year in a row to celebrate the anniversary of EU formation. He also initiated the consulate’s move to new offices in Buckhead, and traveled extensively during his tenure at the consulate general in Atlanta to develop relations throughout the southeastern U.S.
Mr. Monchau’s replacement in Atlanta has not yet been announced.