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France's Hollande offers Africa new aid and trade ties

French President Francois Hollande (R) waits for a guest on the steps of the Elysee Palace in Paris December 4, 2013. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen
French President Francois Hollande (R) waits for a guest on the steps of the Elysee Palace in Paris December 4, 2013. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

PARIS (Reuters) - President Francois Hollande told African leaders on Wednesday France was ready to double its aid and trade to the continent over the next five years.

The target, announced at a conference in Paris ahead of the formal opening on Friday of the annual Africa-France summit, is part of an effort by France to win back African business in the face of growing rivalry from China and others.

"Africa's time has come - and France should see that as an opportunity," Hollande told the conference. "The road between France and Africa is not a one-way street," he told assembled leaders such as Ivory Coast's Alassane Ouattara.

Hollande said France would look to double its global aid to the continent from the 10 billion euros ($13.6 billion)injected from 2008-2013 to 20 billion euros over the next five years.

Paris wants over the same period to double trade with Africa from a current total of 30 billion euros - roughly 15 billion each of imports and exports.

The government estimates France's economic growth will be barely 0.1 percent this year, compared to the five percent average growth rate being experienced across Africa. Doubling France's exports to Africa in the next five years could create 200,000 extra French jobs, French finance ministry officials estimate.

Such a feat would in fact only be the equivalent of recovering lost ground. Between 2000 and 2011, France's share of sub-Saharan imports has fallen from 10.1 percent to 4.7 percent - while China's has risen from two percent in 1990 to over 16 percent by 2011. ($1 = 0.7377 euros)

(Reporting by Dan Flynn and Marine Pennetier; writing by Mark John and editing by Leigh Thomas)

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