“60 years after independence, France and Francophone Africa remain entangled beyond separation. French companies have a quasi-monopoly over electricity, telecommunications, infrastructure, airports and harbours. Macron is a neo-liberal determined to open Africa up for greater trade. His view of colonial history should be taken with a pinch of salt, as he’s unlikely to loosen France’s grip over Africa”.
France has maintained disproportionate influence over its former African colonies, controlling their military and currencies. Will Macron herald a change? He has expressed remorse for aspects of France’s colonial past. But, when it comes to restore French “confidence”, as promised, continuity, rather than change, will prevail. After World War II, across countries in West and Central Africa, a network of French commercial, military and political interests sprung up. These interests worked to maintain the status quo of African economic and political elites. “Francafrique” had strong colonial underpinnings: former colonies provided valuable raw materials while opening their markets to French imports. France guaranteed national security. Paris propped up francophile leaders: Senegal’s Leopold Sédar Senghor and Cote d’Ivoire’s Felix Houphouet-Boigny. Both saw themselves as guardians of a paternalistic order under French tutelage. France retained control of the CFA --the monetary unit of Central and West Africa--. These countries are required to deposit two-thirds of their foreign exchange in a French account. Between 1981-1995, 60,000 French troops were stationed in Francophone Africa. They supported unsavoury Governments, like the Hutu regime of Juvenal Habyarimana in Rwanda, which murdered 800,000 Tutsis in 1994. French soldiers did little to stop it. Relations entered a new phase after 9/11. The Islamic Sahel and Arab North Africa were part of the anti-terror war. Under Jacques Chirac (1995-2007), policy was interventionist. With Sarkozy, France became mercantilist: it remains in Africa to protect its nationals, guard its assets and counter Chinese competition for natural resources and markets. Francois Hollande (2012-2017), contradicting his progressive rhetoric, ordered a series of military interventions, like Operation Barkhane in Mali, and others in Cote d’Ivoire and the Central African Republic. Macron is the first colonial apologist to take office in France. He argues for a gradual phasing out of the CFA franc and withdrawal of French troops, if that’s what Africans want.