France Must Demonstrate ‘Profound Humility’ Towards Africa, Macron Says Ahead of Four-Nation Trip
France 24, February 27, 2023
President Emmanuel Macron on Monday outlined France’s new strategy for Africa, where anti-French sentiment runs high in some of its former colonies. Ahead of a visit to Gabon, Angola, Congo-Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Macron said that France needs to demonstrate a “profound humility” in Africa.
Macron also said France is planning a “noticeable reduction” of its military presence in Africa.
“The change will happen in the coming months, with a noticeable reduction in our numbers and the increased presence of our African partners at these bases,” he said.
France will end its practice of hosting regular military bases in Africa and will instead establish “academies” to be co-run by French and African armies. He said there would be a notable fall in French military personnel but an increase in efforts to provide training and equipment.
But this “reorganisation” is not a withdrawal, Macron said.
“We will remain but with a reduced footprint” to help local troops according to their needs.
Macron said he was “proud” of France’s military record in Mali, and would not allow the country to be made a scapegoat for a worsening of the security situation in the Sahel, where Islamist insurgents have made fresh progress as France’s involvement has waned.
According to February 2023 estimates from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, fatalities linked to Islamist militants in Africa have surged by nearly 50 percent over the past year.
Macron went on to say that France wants to avoid giving “lectures” to its African partners.
“France’s role is not to fix all the problems in Africa,” he said.
He also expressed the hope that France could help foster small businesses and entrepreneurship in Africa and beyond.
“France is strong thanks to its diaspora,” Macron said, adding that France must help increase their economic and business ties with the continent and expressing hopes for an emergent “new generation of French-African entrepreneurs”.
In a 2017 speech to students at a university in Burkina Faso, Macron pledged to break away from his country’s former post-colonial policies on the continent of more than 50 countries.
He criticised “the crimes of European colonisation” and called for a “truly new relationship” between Africa and Europe.
But much has changed in Burkina Faso and the wider Sahel region since he first expressed his intentions of redefining France’s relationship with the African continent.
France has fallen out with the new military authorities in Mali and Burkina Faso, withdrawing its troops from both former French colonies after years of helping the authorities battle jihadists.