The coup in Gabon, as well as the coups in recent years in the former French colonies, highlight France’s difficulties in maintaining a zone of influence in Africa. This week, in his annual speech to French ambassadors, Emmanuel Macron stressed the importance for his country to maintain and consolidate its influence around the world. Unfortunately for him, the term “influence” sounds to African ears like an insufferable remnant of colonial times. The French government finds itself in the awkward position of politicians who have fallen out of favor with the population: whatever it says and does, its words and gestures are interpreted negatively by a large part of the African population.
1) How does France want to increase its influence?
At the end of his speech to the ambassadors, which appeared to go beyond his text, Macron spoke of the communication problems plaguing France in Africa and elsewhere. French media is free, but is perceived by many Africans as being paid for by the French government. However, these media are opposed by other media paid by various governments that are hostile to French interests. The French government must therefore find a way to respond to anti-French propaganda. Macron gave no details about how he planned to accomplish this task.
2) Are the allegations against France unfounded?
The accusations of neo-colonialism against France in Africa are not all unfounded. For example, African countries that use the CFA franc must deposit half of their foreign exchange reserves with the Banque de France. This compulsory registration hinders the economic freedom of these countries and at the same time strengthens the French economy. However, critics of the CFA franc tend to forget that France had thereby guaranteed a certain degree of stability for the CFA franc. Is this guarantee still necessary today? Without this guarantee, the CFA franc could easily be turned into a worthless currency through coups and corruption cases, as in Zimbabwe.
3) Who is France’s biggest rival in Africa?
Historically, England was France’s fiercest rival in Africa. Those days are over. France faces four major competitors in the region. The first, which is not often mentioned, is Saudi Arabia. The latter has been funding mosques and Koranic schools for decades that are destroying traditional African Islam and establishing a fundamentalist Islam in its place. This Islam destroys African societies and promotes jihad.
4) Who are France’s other rivals?
The second rival is China. China is the main trading partner of most African countries. The Chinese government has promoted the creation of a strong Chinese diaspora in several African countries through various construction projects. The Chinese in this diaspora are often very enterprising. They naturally tend to trade with China rather than other countries. France’s third rival is Russia. Russia is an excellent propagandist and has sent around 6,000 mercenaries to Africa. These appear to be behind several recent coups. However, the disappearance of the Wagner Group was intended to slow Russia’s progress. The last major rival is the American government. After the disasters in Mali, Burkina Fasso and Niger, it seems to believe that it can calm the region better than France.