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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 December 2005, 13:24 GMT
Africa summit focus on youth jobs
Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure (L) with Jacques Chirac
Previous France-Africa summits have had mixed success
French President Jacques Chirac has joined leaders from across Africa in Mali for a two-day summit focusing on youth issues.

More than 50 African heads of state or senior officials are taking part in the two-yearly meeting, in Bamako.

Topping the agenda are Africa's problems with youth unemployment and migration, as well as conflict.

More than 60% of the 860 million people living in Africa are under the age of 25 and youth unemployment is rife.

Message from the young

The 23rd France-Africa summit was opened in Bamako's congress hall by Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure.

He was followed by Mr Chirac, who is making his first trip outside of Europe since he was hospitalised in September following what doctors called a "vascular incident".

African leaders are determined to hear and see to it that we can bring, with international co-operation, the responses expected by all these young people
Jacques Chirac

At the ceremony a message written on the behalf of the youth of Africa was read to the delegates.

Speaking after his arrival in Mali on Friday evening Mr Chirac said that most young Africans were seeking peace and democracy and the chance to enjoy "normal living conditions for our times".

"African leaders are determined to hear and see to it that we can bring, with international co-operation, the responses expected by all these young people," he said.

Ivory Coast security

The BBC's James Copnall says that youth unemployment is a huge problem for Africa and linked to that is the desire of so many Africans, both young and old, to emigrate to the West.

On Thursday the UN office for West Africa issued a report in Senegal saying nearly 75% of Africans under 30 are unemployed.

In recent months, this has been highlighted by the thousands of sub-Saharan Africans desperately trying to break into the two Spanish enclaves in Morocco, our correspondent says.

Illegal migrants in Morocco
Many young Africans leave the continent in search of work

The summit will also consider the conflicts on the continent, including Darfur and Ivory Coast.

France currently has 4,000 soldiers deployed in Ivory Coast, alongside a 7,000-strong UN force.

However, Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo is not attending the meeting. According to his office this is due to the ongoing security situation in his country.

Our correspondent says Ivory Coast and several other Francophone African nations have a poor relationship with France, their former colonial power.

In recent years, the France-Africa summits have often been condemned for achieving little concrete progress.

But that has not always been the case, our correspondent says - in 1990, the-then French President Francois Mitterrand said all future French aid would be conditional on democratic advances.

Shortly afterwards, a number of Francophone states introduced multi-party politics for the first time.

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