Africa: France neither colonial nor relegated
Paris seems torn between reflexes inherited from “Francafrique” and a resignation to diplomatic and economic relegation. Why not act as a privileged partner?
The myth has had a hard life: the colonial empire gives power, and its survival, in other forms, preserves it somehow. In the name of which, for nearly seventy years the reform, a hundred times promised, of “France’s African policy” has been slow to materialize. At the start of his mandate, Emmanuel Macron seemed determined to work hard to make up for lost time. In November 2017, he promised students who came to listen to him at the University of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) a new Franco-African relationship in which the youth, the majority on the continent, would be the privileged vector.
Unlike all his predecessors of the Fifth Republic, including François Hollande, doesn’t the president have the particularity of being less linked than them to the complicated historical heritage of neocolonialism? And to be, a priori, less dependent on the networks – right and left – of Françafrique? Alas, a little over four years later, in this area at least, the mandate ends in confusion, disappointment and the beginnings of an inglorious exit – but not without consequence – from the long, too long, military expedition to Mali. The Élysée had set two red lines not to be crossed for the so-called transitional authorities (i.e. the doubly putschist soldiers led by Colonel Assimi Goïta): an effective partnership with the Russian private military company Wagner and a postponement elections scheduled for mid-February 2022.
For now, most nations of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) stand by France and condemn the attitude of the colonels. But this translates in truth a cruel reality: the clocks of a part of the African elites (whether they have legitimately or not acceded to power) like civil societies are no longer regulated by those of Paris. This was already the case in the economic field, despite the deceptive presence of a few large groups, including that of Bolloré – which has just sold its transport and logistics activities to the Swiss shipowner MSC. For the rest, in keeping with the logic of an open market, the Chinese, Indians, Turks and others have long since reduced the French share – France, as far as Europe is concerned, now being only the second largest exporter on the continent… behind Germany.