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Françafrique in 2023

In his speech of February 27, 2023, the observation of a changing Africa pushes the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron to note the strategic reorientation, based on a new partnership approach with the African continent. Between the French errors made in Africa and the search for a scapegoat on the part of African governments who fail to stem chronic unemployment, a new decolonized narrative is essential to co-construct new relations between the two partners.

October 6, 2023
3 min read

Image credit © by Ludovic MARIN/AFP

General Clément-Bollée Francophonie's African diasporas

Many Africans are convinced that France continues to exercise a form of supervision over its former colonies: economic, political, security. Françafrique (“France-à-fric = Cash Pump” in its ironic version), according to them, continues to be reborn with the succession of presidents of the French republic.

Today, Francophobia is flourishing in African cities. Many social networks broadcast an image of France as perverse, predatory, overwhelming, but powerless to protect the Sahelian populations from jihadists.

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“Down with France!” », “France, get out! » The banners brandished in Dakar, Bamako and Ouagadougou arouse painful emotion among those who remember the euphoria which accompanied the procession of François Hollande after the intervention in 2013 of French forces to save the Malian capital against an intrusion of groups rebels capable of establishing an Islamist regime. The culmination of the rupture was the ouster of the French ambassador to Mali by the junta installed in power, followed by the announcement of the withdrawal of the Barkhane force. A historic snub and an inglorious departure.

The Francophobic climate is exacerbated by good causes such as that born with the “Black Lives Matter” movement, global awareness of the ravages of trafficking, slavery and racism, the consequences of which still too often affect African-Americans. . The mobilizations attack symbols, statues, street names, of Western pride, erected to the glory of the system of domination and left in public space. The work of appropriating history has only just begun.

Sixty years after independence, the ritual invocation of “neocolonialism” which is based on the crisis that African youth are currently experiencing often serves as an exoneration of the inability of those in power to eradicate chronic unemployment.

Does the lawsuit against France in times of pandemic not distract attention from the often disastrous state of local health systems? Isn't French-speaking African opinion seeking, more or less confusedly, an external causal explanation to escape the feeling of guilt in the face of the discomfort of the population, particularly the youth, in the face of failed States?

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On the tenuous path between indifference and interference, the Africa-France relationship is strewn with traps. We prefer France where it has no history, like in Ghana or Kenya, than where it does. Where some denounce his excesses of interference, the same people reproach him for not practicing democratic interference with autocrats skilled in shamelessly multiplying, in his former "ground", his "meadow", mandates electoral (Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast). , dynastic transfers (Togo, Gabon, Djibouti, Chad) or military coups postponing indefinitely the return to power of civilians in the Sahel (Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali).

We can be attentive to the cries of memory, hear resentments when they are well-founded, not avoid the story of past violence, without reconnecting with the hope of another story built on a shared imagination. Cultural exchange is one of the keys. With in particular the 53 French Institutes and the network of 120 Alliances françaises, sometimes installed in places far from capitals and which continue to welcome (in Cotonou, Ouagadougou, Dakar, Kinshasa, but also in Parakou, Bobo-Dioulasso, Saint-Louis , Goma, etc.), the Africa-France relationship needs a new narrative, decolonized, between partners and involving a multitude of actors (citizen movements, youth groups, local authorities, NGOs, companies of all sizes), without donors of teaching, with more diversified scientific means and artistic exchanges.

A story of partnership between equals, co-constructed. With a special place given to French, the common language from Dakar to Paris, from Libreville to Cotonou, provided that it is taught satisfactorily, in addition to national languages ​​and that it also serves as a support for the expression of values. of democracy, with respect for unique and completely uninhibited identities.

The West in general and France in particular seem to be losing ground in the face of new power strategies. On the one hand, Russia is accelerating its establishment in Africa by multiplying initiatives in the security, economic, influence and also diplomatic fields, seizing every opportunity to “bring France out of the ring” via its proxy Wagner. On the other hand, China continues to weave its Silk Roads through a “debt diplomacy” whose economic and influence mechanisms are implemented to the detriment of the West.

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France's setbacks in Mali and Burkina Faso are seen as failures which affect its traditional image as a leading player on the African continent. The abstention of sixteen African countries, some of which are considered close to France, during the vote at the United Nations General Assembly calling on Russia to cease its aggression in Ukraine, testifies to a change in traditional lines.

Positioned on the markets of southern Europe, home to considerable reserves of natural resources (30% of minerals essential to the ecological transition, Africa in the great global game, driven by a demographic boom which has the potential to make continent the world's largest market with more than a quarter of the world's population within thirty years. In 2022, Africa's growth will follow that of Asia. Africa also represents one of the heavyweights of multilateral bodies that will be able to rally its member states (28% of votes at the UN). Today, the African continent occupies a major place in world affairs.

French interests must be reread through the prism of these trends which will shape the world of tomorrow. They are divided into four axes :

  •        Political interests: Africa is a major determinant of France's stature as a world power. A powerful diplomatic network (46 embassies in 54 states) as well as cultural links that are still alive even if the Francophonie's capacity to influence is losing ground.

  •        Strategic interests: The question of access to the continent, and more particularly to its resources and its sensitive installations for our deterrence, as well as the security of the lines of communication, in particular to our overseas territories of Indo -Pacific, poses Africa. at the heart of our strategic interests.

  •        Economic interests: Africa represents less than 5% of foreign trade, even if today modest and declining economic interests are nevertheless real, because Africa today offers a significant part of the development potential of which the Nation needs to recover levers of action and strategic room for development. Maneuver. In the short and medium term, there are numerous opportunities to be seized in the fields of digital technology, energy, agriculture and even infrastructure, such as the ongoing construction of "the largest industrial zone in South Africa". West” in Benin. In the longer term, demographic and growth dynamics will make Africa a powerful engine of growth on a global scale.

  •       Security interests: On the one hand, the question of nationals arises acutely, as the deterioration of the level of security increases. It goes beyond the national community alone since by agreement many Western countries rely on France to evacuate their fellow citizens in the event of a crisis. On the other hand, the intensification of migratory flows towards “aging developed countries” and linked to the rise in insecurity in the broad sense (jihadism, global warming and demographic explosion), will appear as a structural risk for European countries. Finally, the importance of the African diasporas must also be taken into account in the security equation.

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General Clément-Bollée intervened, saying: “France is in a bad position today. However, his interests are multiple. They require an imperative, urgent and adapted reaction so as not to be disembarked from the continent.” The message is clear: if the ends appear unambiguous (interests), the paths to follow and the means to devote to achieving them remain to be determined. Indeed, the strategic moment that France is experiencing requires it to forge a long-term vision before it is “too late”. It is about making clear and understandable choices and sticking to them over time, giving ourselves the means to make these choices and having them understood and accepted by our African partners and allies.



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