We are on 9 November 2004 in Abidjan. The troops of Operation Licorne that day shoot at Ivorian rioters during anti-French demonstrations. Antoine Glaser, a journalist specializing in French-speaking Africa, sees it as a symbol of the loss of Africa by France.
Barely nine years after these tragic events, the French Army, still on African soil, this time in Mali, in operations of considerable magnitude and with Africanized titles Serval, then Barkhane, against a new enemy formidable : Islamist armed groups! In all the great cities of the north, the French army was welcomed as liberator, as was formerly the Division Leclerc of Koufra in Paris. The colors tricolor blue, white and red are then the firmament of success.
The respite was short-lived. This summer 2017, from the peninsula of Cape Verde to the valley of the Niger, the symbols of the françafrique are undermined. The most striking of them, with a staging close to the autodafé, was the destruction in public place of a ticket of FCFA by the activist Kemi Seba. The fight against this currency inherited from the colonial era, printed at the Chamalières factory of the Bank of France, became the spearhead of a determined African youth. The French army, too, is pointed out by the Sahelian populations. In the face of growing insecurity and the latest attacks in Ouagadougou and Timbuktu, some, in a low voice, would almost regret the occupation of the jihadists! To complete the misfortune, the emblematic statue of the colonial administrator Faidherbe at Saint-Louis falls. Carried by the French company Eiffage for renovation, this statue is escorted by the police in order to avoid acts of anger – even mystical, against it. A whole symbol!
“It is obviously too early to take stock of Macron’s African policy. But it is a safe bet that France will remain master of the game in its former colonies.”
With the arrival of Emmanuel Macron, France tries to reverse the curve of desamor. It is for this purpose that a presidential council for Africa (CPA) is set up. With the main objective of improving the governance of French African politics, the CPA announces the end of the unofficial intermediaries, the end of vexatious and humiliating speeches, a contrario the recognition of an innovative and conquering Africa.
It is obviously too early to take stock of Macron’s African policy. But it is a safe bet that France will remain master of the game in its former colonies. The levers of the Franchafrique have not disappeared from the institutional architecture despite the arrival of the CPA. At 2 rue Élysée, the quintessential publisher, will always decide the fate of some African heads of state. Special envoys to the Sahel will be responsible for implementing Macron’s security policy in the fight against terrorism and immigration. The future of Francophone Africa will always be defined in Paris and, unilaterally, with major illusionist projects of continental and regional integration, as the “road to freedom and responsibility that will go from the other side of the the Mediterranean and which will cross the whole of Africa “, following the example of the discreet UPM. Macron will not give up on the FCFA issue. After the threat “leave the FCFA if not stop criticizing”, then the talks behind the scenes, Macron announces a modernization of the zone CFA. He will not give up anything, the balance of power is still in favor of France!
The CPA is above all an instrument of seduction towards the African youth. Is not this attempt to please a sword in the water? Is it not already too late as the episodes of this summer suggest? The decision to postpone the constitutional revision aimed at strengthening the process of regionalization in Mali, which is eagerly defended and promoted by Emmanuel Macron, shows that the demonstrations of young Malians have borne fruit. African youth on social networks have already settled the CFFU debate in favor of a single African currency. In all these debates, Macron’s voice does not bear!
So, yes, Antoine Glaser, is right to think that France has lost Africa. This clay-colored colossus is still resisting because of the presence of Islamist groups, the absence of African leaders, the fragility of the socio-economic systems of the African states, and the almost non-existence of an ambitious industrial policy. But this resistance is on the defensive despite some initiatives like the CPA. France, under the era of Macron, will continue to consume itself gently but surely in Africa. Then, against the backdrop of the ruins of the Franchafrique, perhaps it will be time to consider a new place for France in Africa and ultimately to make a real cultural revolution between these two continents!
By Emmanuel Desfourneaux: currently Director-General ICAEP (Institute of Afro-European Culture in Paris) and Founder of this official Unesco NGO.