France now comes to Africa with new mission

FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron speaks with African leaders.


HE has already served six months in office. This is none other than Emmanuel Macron, the French President who is taking a different approach, from his predecessors, as he looks forward to improving diplomatic relations and encourage an open and respectful dialogue with his African counterparts.

Initially, during his first visit to Mali, he put it clear that the basis of their relationship needs to change. This means that everybody will have to underline their own responsibilities. Also Macron attended a conference in France and then met with Alpha Conde, the president of Guinea in Conakry , and the current Chair of AU at Elysee Palace in Paris on 22nd of November 2017.

President Macron has made his visit to another four African states namely Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Ivory Coast to attend AU-EU Summit together with Algeria from November 27th -7th December, 2017. The 39 year old and energetic young leader is eager to revitalize the existing of France relations with the African continent.

His trip aims to demonstrate a new kind of strategy which seeks to break away from neocolonialism across the continent. Usually French Presidents make early visits to Africa as the former Presidents, for several purposes but one of the reasons is long French colonization to the most of African countries in North, West and Central Africa from around 1830 until 1960.

After French colonialism ended in 1960,France wielded a tight grip over its former dominions, using military might to install leaders in return for French companies securing lucrative contracts by a policy of “Francafrique.” France’s shift away from Francafrique has eroded the privileges once enjoyed by companies such as Total, Orange and Areva, just as globalization has opened the field to China and India.

Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande declared while visiting Senegal in 2012 that “the time of La Francafrique is over”, referring to a shadowy network of diplomats, soldiers and businessmen who manipulated African leaders for decades after independence.

But it comes at a tense time, when French troops are being sucked deeper into years of long battle to quell Islamist militancy in the Sahel region. France has 4,000 troops deployed there, their presence highlighted in a bitter row between France and Mali over the deaths of 11 Malian troops being held captive by Islamist militants in a French air strike.

But it is not the first time a French president has promised to break with past French dominance on the continent. Most of Francophone states in West Africa are members of the CFA franc, the currency of 14 African countries.

The CFA and its structure, in which the countries, through two regional central banks, deposit 50% of foreign exchange reserves at the Bank of France in exchange for fixedrate euro convertibility, are facing their most significant criticism in decades.

Emblematic of the dismay with France is the CFA franc, a currency that is pegged to the Euro which critics say is a colonial legacy. French former colonies, such as Mali, Burkina Faso and the Central African Republic are among the poorest and most troubled countries on the continent.

But few that are doing better, such as Ivory Coast, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia are locked in longstanding relationships with French companies. In Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital, Macron gave a speech at the University of Ouagadougou to an audience of around 800 students, followed by a hot question and answer session.

In his speech, peppered with references to African nationalists such as Nelson Mandela and Burkina’s revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara, Macron promised a break with a past in which France often seemed to call the shots to former colonies.

The location has been strategically chosen as the perfect place to announce his new Africa strategy. He said he was “from a generation that would not tell Africans what to do”. He also said he would declassify secret French files on the former colony’s assassinated leader, Sankara.

All French files on the 1987 assassination of Thomas Sankara would be made available to Burkina Faso’s authorities, Mr. Macron added that”At present, except for documents which are classified and categorized as secret, the files are available and open to Burkinabe justice”.

But there were some clashes outside the university between pro-France protesters and those who reject French interference in African affairs. A youth protest against him, stones pelting one of his delegation’s vehicles and a botched grenade attack on French troops before his arrival in Burkina Faso’s capital.

Ghana, a former British colony is where France has ramped up investment, including in oil, telecoms and technology. When Macron was in Accra,the questionwas asked by a local journalist to Macros about whether France was going to strengthen its support for other African countries aside its former colonies where the majority of French aid is spent.

Ghana’s President, Nana AkufoAddo in his speech replied as he called for Africa to end its dependency on West. He stressed “We can no longer continue to make policy for ourselves, in our country, in our region, in our continent on the basis of whatever support that the western world or France, or the European Union can give us.

It will not work. It has not worked and it will not work’. Addo added “We have to get away from this mindset of dependency. This mindset about ‘what can France do for us?’ France will do whatever it wants to do for its own sake, and when those coincide with ours, our concern should be what we need to do in this 21st century to move Africa away from being cap in hand and begging for aid, for charity, for handouts.

The African continent when you look at its resources, should be giving monies to other places. We need to have a mindset that says we can do it”. In October, Ghana’s vice president gave the keynote address at an event that officially started the clock for the cessation of aid from Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands in 2020.

Instead, the government is pushing for trade and investments and embarked on massive tax collection effort in order to fund its many ambitious projects including free secondary education. However, few African leaders, regardless of their personal beliefs, ever publicly the idea that international support is needed for development or, in the worst cases, day to day running of their countries.

The newly elected Ghana’s President, whose Anglophone democracy is still far ahead in terms of governance,has just made French as a mandatory language in secondary schools which would make him to be a novel partner for France.

Generally, Mr. Macron sent a clear message to Africa that, the future of Africa belongs to the younger generation and they need to be supported as the African youths need education and work prospects on the continent to advance the transformation of Africa.

He said also “Africa to be a priority of French economic diplomacy” and that France would “no longer invest solely in government-to-government operations. It will no longer invest for large groups to participate in organized corruption operations”.

During the European-African Summit, the French President clarified on France’s plans for Africa and Macron’s proposals to bolster African growth and create jobs echo Germany’s call for a “Marshall Plan for Africa”. He also promised to raise France’s aid budget from 0.38% of National Income to 0.55% by 2022.

It should be remembered that, at a press conference at the G20 summit in Hamburg on July 8 of 2017, the question was posed to the French President, Macron from a Cote d’Ivoire journalist as the reporter asked why there was no “Marshall Plan” for Africa

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