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12/05/2023

The bankruptcy of France’s Africa policy

The bankruptcy of France’s Africa policy

By Ali Rıza Taşdelen

In 2017, the year Emmanuel Macron was elected president, France started to lose its influence in Africa. Because in the 2000s, Africa had started to turn towards China, the centre of attraction of the New World. The imperialist powers, especially France, together with the US, staged a series of coups and invaded countries in order to stop the rise of China and protect their sphere of influence. In 2010, the US collaborator French President Nicolas Sarkozy, together with the US, overthrew Laurent Gbagbo in the Ivory Coast, who attached importance to developing relations with BRIC countries, especially China. In 2011, they attacked Libya and massacred President Muammar Gaddafi. Social Democrat François Holland who won the elections in 2012 continued Sarkozy’s Atlanticist aggressive line and in 2013 France intervened militarily in Mali and the Central African Republic. Since then, besides China, India, Russia, Türkiye and Saudi Arabia have also developed economic, military and cultural relations with African countries.

Restoring Frances failed Africa policy

In the first year of his election, Macron, in order to restore France’s failed Africa policy and tarnished image, addressed students at the Joseph Ki-Zerbo University in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on 28 November 2017 as follows:

“France no longer has an African policy… Like you, I come from a generation that has never recognized Africa as a colonized continent… I come from a generation whose fondest memories are of Nelson Mandela’s victory… I come from a generation of French for whom the crimes of colonization are indisputable… I come from a generation who didn’t come to Africa to tell them what they should do.”

Macron aimed to renew the bond between the former colonial France and the continent it colonized.

But the world was not the old world and nor Africa was the old Africa. The political and social climate brought about by the rise of the leading countries of Eurasia such as China, Russia and Türkiye in Africa started a resistance and struggle against the colonialist imperialists in a number of countries. After the 2020s, in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger there came the second wave of independence against French imperialism. Thus, France’s Africa policy was bankrupt.

As if still standing firm

Unable to accept defeat, Macron is now desperately trying to maintain France’s influence in Africa. Having given up hope in Mali and Burkina Faso, he is looking for a deal with Niger. France needs uranium to keep the nuclear power working and to ensure that the 56 reactors across the country generate electricity.

The French company Orano operates the uranium deposits of Niger. France procures 10-15 percent of the uranium required for its nuclear power plants from Niger. While Orano announced that it will continue to operate in Niger, Niger authorities expelled French troops, and they will be withdrawn by the end of the year. So the question is: Will France, having lost its military effectiveness, be able to maintain its economic and commercial relations of the old colonialist understanding with Niger? At this rate, it will be tough!

This is because Macron continues to speak with a tone of boasting and wants to give a message to the world: “I am still standing firm”. Last week, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara visited France and met Macron at the Élysée Palace. The main topic of the meeting was the Sahel region, particularly Niger, where France is in a difficult situation. According to Le Monde, Macron said that he “continues to give its full support to ousted Niger President Mohamed Bazoum and that the release of Bazoum, who is in custody with his wife and son, is a precondition for negotiations with the coup plotters”. Macron further advocated Bazoum’s reinstatement and the military intervention of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, in Niger. A day after that meeting, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning Bazoum’s detention and calling for his immediate reinstatement.

Africa meeting in the French National Assembly

In sum, we can say that the West and Macron do not grasp, or maybe don’t want to accept the new developments in Africa. Meanwhile, the majority of French people do not trust Macron’s Africa policy. According to a poll conducted by Le Figaro, 62% of the French are pessimistic about the future of relations between France and African countries and do not believe that Macron can establish “new and balanced ties” with African countries.

Last week, the French National Assembly convened with Africa on the agenda and the last 10 years of France-Africa relations were discussed. Macron’s Africa policy was harshly criticized. I will give an evaluation of the 60-page report of the Assembly in another article. Here I will make a few short quotations from the speeches of the deputies:

– Marine Le Pen, President of the National Unity (Rassemblement National) Party Group:

“Under Emmanuel Macron, this policy has been lost in errors, inconsistencies and contradictions. The sinister misadventure in Niger in recent months would be the high point.”

– Jean-Paul Lecoq, Deputy for the Democratic and Republican Left:

 “Emmanuel Macron’s reaction to the coup d’état in Niger this summer and the threat of war led by ECOWAS, encouraged by Paris, is part of the same shameful attitude, namely the fear of losing access to Niger’s uranium which we buy at low prices.”

– Anna Pic, Deputy for Socialist Party:

“In three years, in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, countries with which we had good relations, there have been coups d’états that went so far as to demand the departure of our armed forces and diplomats, and we are facing a growing mistrust of France. Moreover, France’s market share in Africa will fall from 10.2% in 2001 to just 4.1% in 2021. Germany and Türkiye have overtaken us, and China is leading with 18%.”

– Arnaud Le Gall, Deputy for La France Unsoumise:

“Let us put an end to this disastrous double standard. How come we condemn coups in one country, but favor coup plotters in another, as in Chad? How can we condemn some massacres and legitimize others? … More than 60 years after the political independence, the people are demanding a second independence and openly reaffirming their sovereignty.”

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