France plans to invest up to $550m in a new state-owned mining company called Compagnie National des Mines de France (CMF) to focus on specialty metals and rare earths inside France and around the globe, but particularly in former colonies in Africa such as Senegal.

The investment, which will be spread out over five to seven years is the first industrial enterprise to be established by the French state in 20 years, and will be modelled around Japan’s Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) created in 2004 with an annual budget of $150 million.

Highlighting France’s intrinsic advantage in its former colonies with regard to mineral resources, industry minister Arnaud Montebourg noted: “Francophone African countries, in particular, would like to work with us rather than do business with foreign multinationals.”

And indeed, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last month, Senegalese President Macky Sall announced that he would like the mining industry to drive his country’s economy and help expand the economy by about 7% over the next decade.

Senegal, one of the most stable African countries according to the World Bank, is a major exporter of phosphate, but it’s also looking to develop its iron ore, gold and oil industries.

France already has a strong interest in Africa’s natural resources, and particularly through Areva, a nuclear power giant whose biggest shareholder is the French government and which gets 40% of its uranium from Niger.

“Colbertism is coming back and that is good,” the minister added, according to the Financial Times, referring to Jean-Baptiste Colbert, a 17th-century economic minister under France’s ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV and the father of French dirigisme.