Is France going to be able to maintain its position in Africa?

On March 1-5, French President Macron visited a number of African countries, leaving observers with a bitter taste in their mouths.  Conceived with great fanfare as a presentation of Paris ostensibly new course aimed at “equal cooperation” with the African continent, it was remembered only for scandals, public spats with African presidents, and taunts from them that reflected the obvious disadvantage in bilateral relations.

Overall, the visit did not boost Paris’ credibility or strengthen its ties with Africa. Following the significant losses that France has suffered in Africa in recent years, the Elysée Palace should focus on preserving the African diamonds that remain in its crown rather than expanding its influence. And there aren’t many of them anymore. After Mali and Burkina Faso defected from Paris, Morocco is now gradually but steadily shifting from the French to the American camp, further narrowing the maneuvering field for Paris, which must look around and consider how to save what is left. What does it have in its piggy bank?

The richest “chest” in which the French keep the wealth looted from Africans is … the French treasury itself.  The scheme of collecting money through the sub-regional economic cooperation organization of West Africa, ECOWAS (almost all its 15 members are former French colonies) is well established and allows almost half their economic potential to be at the service of the French economy.

ECOWAS itself was founded in 1975 on the basis of the Lagos Treaty and initially included 16 countries, but later the only Arab country in its composition, Mauritania, withdrew from it, remaining an associate member. When the organization was founded, the most noble goals were declared – the economic integration of the region, its self-sufficiency with the subsequent transition to a federation, a single citizenship and a single currency. But somehow it so happened that the most advanced element of integration was the creation of its own single currency – the West African CFA franc, which combines the currencies of the eight countries of this association, members of the West African Economic and Monetary Union, formed in 1994 (a number of other countries also use this currency). And “quite by chance” this currency is pegged to the euro, and 50% of foreign exchange reserves of these countries are stored in the French Central Bank, which completely deprives these countries of economic independence. Moreover, attempts by some of these countries to transfer their gold reserves to other jurisdictions are repeatedly unsuccessful, which naturally causes discontent among member countries.

Paris is forced to respond to this and in 2020 proposed a bill to this effect in the French National Assembly, according to which the CFA franc should be replaced by the “eco” already without being tied to the mandatory deposit in France. The draft was approved and ratified. However, it turned out that the pandemic buried it for a long time. In June 2021, ECOWAS revisited it, and a summit of member countries agreed on a five-year “currency convergence” pact, as well as a road map to launch a new monetary unit, now a region-wide one, by 2027.

More recently, on 24 January 2023, the President of Guinea-Bissau, who as of June 2022 is the current President of ECOWAS, pledged to revive the project, while also strengthening internal trade among ECOWAS countries, which currently represents less than 10% of total trade. To what extent this will work is not yet clear. Many suspect Paris that the reform of the CFA franc will be cosmetic and will not change the essence of economic relations between the member countries of the association and France, which actively uses the West African currency in the interests of French and multinational corporations based in its territory, which hold the markets of these states under their control and pump them for profit, including natural resources. Paris’s “Trojan horse” in ECOWAS is Côte d’Ivoire and the puppet regime put there by Paris, which implements French interests in the organization under the guise of African interests.

Whether or not Paris can pull off another trick with currency “reform” is not yet clear. Again, at the instigation of Paris, the membership of ECOWAS member countries where there have been recent coups, such as Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso, is suspended, and important reforms that affect their core national interests can be carried out by regional organizations without their participation and taking their position into account by allies or, rather, satellites of France, such as Côte d’Ivoire. We can hardly believe that the Elysée Palace will not take advantage of these opportunities.

The other two countries where Paris will try by all means to maintain its influence are Chad and Niger, where strategic reserves of uranium, gold and other minerals are concentrated. In addition, Chad occupies an important strategic position, bordering Libya in the north and Sudan in the east, which makes it an important transit zone involved in both arms and migrant traffic. Chad, too, has a leadership that is questionable in terms of Western democracy—the son of President Idriss Déby, killed two years ago, Mahamat Déby, who heads the Transitional Military Council. But Paris, so sensitive to the issue in Mali and Burkina Faso, pays little attention in this case, because it is “our son of a bitch.”

Even more important for Paris is Niger, where uranium reserves, critical for the French nuclear industry, are being actively exploited. Paris is covered there by Washington, which has a chain of military bases, airfields and reconnaissance centers with UAVs. Of course, Paris will fight for this strategic region of Africa to the end, which, however, does not guarantee success.

In fact, Paris now has only one direction to go in Africa – to further lose its weight and influence. There are more and more reasons for this. France is increasingly uninterested in African states. Its military capabilities are shrinking, the effectiveness of its participation in solving the security problems of the continent is extremely low, which leads more and more states to refuse its assistance. France’s socio-political model is also losing its attractiveness against the background of increasing economic problems of the country, and with them the protests against the internal political and economic line of the Rothschild-appointed Macron. Constant arrogant lectures about the need to comply with democratic norms on the background of the suppression of citizens’ rights and the increasingly police nature of the French state, hits the eyes of Africans, as well as the growing propaganda of LGBT values. In this light, the storage of West African reserves in the Paris treasury looks increasingly anachronistic.

In Africa, they cannot fail to see Paris’s almost complete loss of sovereignty in European affairs, where it has demonstrated its absolute servility and dependence on the course of Washington, in particular with regard to the conflict in Ukraine. In this context, the attempts of Paris to fix the situation by loud slogans about “change of course”, belated repentance for the sins of the times of colonialism, as well as blaming the Wagner PMC for its problems look rather pathetic. The day is not far when France, like other colonialists, will be kicked off the continent as unable to cope with the challenges of the new era. In their place will come other forces that advocate real equal cooperation and its mutually beneficial nature based on the principles of a multipolar world, as well as unambiguously interpreted norms of international law.

Pogos Anastasov, Political Expert and Orientalist, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.


You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress | Designed by: Premium WordPress Themes | Thanks to Themes Gallery, Bromoney and Wordpress Themes