France cannot execute its new Africa strategy, experts say

Africa experts, academics criticize French President Macron's new strategy for being unilateral

Ahmet Emin Donmez  | 08.03.2023 - Update : 09.03.2023
France cannot execute its new Africa strategy, experts say French President Emmanuel Macron is welcomed by President of Democratic Republic of Congo Felix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo on March 04, 2023. ( Samy Ntumba Shambuyi - Anadolu Agency )


France's President Emmanuel Macron may run into trouble trying to implement his new Africa strategy, according to some African experts and academics.

Last week, Macron visited Gabon, Angola, the Congo Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to renew relations between Paris and Africa and proclaim his intention to make French interference on the continent a thing of the past.

In Gabon, the first leg of his tour, Macron announced "the end of Francafrique," vowing that Paris would be a "neutral interlocutor whose role is not to interfere in domestic politics."

However, some experts on the continent assert that this declaration is nothing more than a veil for more meddling as locals increasing oppose France's presence on the continent.

Unilateral strategy

"Francafrique" was is a term coined by French intellectuals after World War II to describe the updated version of the French colonial system, a professor at Yaounde University in Cameroon's capital, Ntuda Ebode Joseph Vincent, pointed out.

"With its Francafrique policy, France interferes in African countries' domestic affairs on the military, economic, and other levels, and makes sure to create secret economic ties between the African regimes and French politicians," he said.

Ntuda Ebode, who heads the university's International Relations and Strategic Studies Center, accused France of seeking to "write the history of Africa on its own, as it has done in the past."

"It's impossible to implement the New Africa Strategy which was not prepared inclusively and jointly," he stressed.

Changing discourse for popularity

Citing surveys conducted in 2021-2022, Mursel Bayram, head of Africa Studies at the Social Sciences University of Ankara, Türkiye's capital, said African opinion leaders saw China, Germany, Canada, and Türkiye as Africa's most beneficial partners.

"France is even behind new actors like Japan, and India," Bayram added. "The French government, aware of this, seeks to change the discourse."

A Senegalese expert in international relations, Daouda Kinda also argued that Macron's remarks did not reflect reality.

Kinda said that the West had not given up on the colonial system and kept it alive through economic ties such as the African franc currency.

France seeks to regain popularity in countries such as the Central African Republic, Mali, and Burkina Faso, where locals have staged protests against French military presence in recent years, according to Kinda.

"France is changing its strategy, as did the other colonial powers," the expert said. "After seeing that military interventions in Africa no longer had any influence, France is trying to implement a 'soft power' policy through civil society and the young people."

Kinda asserted that Macron "never considered ending this colonial system," and instead wants to restore France's lost popularity on the continent.

*Writing by Nur Asena Erturk

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