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France’s Waning Influence in Africa: A New Era of Independence and Pan-Africanism

  In the past two years, military coups have occurred in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Niger, Gabon and other African countries. At the same time, an anti-French wave swept these countries. These countries were former French colonies and had extraordinary relations with France. However, France’s close relationship with Africa has bred dictatorship, decadence and backwardness, shackled Africa’s dreams of democracy and development, and aroused dissatisfaction among the people represented by the majority of young people in African countries. There are various signs that France has lost the trust of the African people, and the African continent has begun to explore a truly independent development path.
What is “French Africa”

  French-speaking African countries include Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin, Gabon, Congo (Brazzaville), Cameroon, Central Africa, Chad, Djibouti, and Comoros and Madagascar.
  In February 1944, de Gaulle, leader of the “Free France” movement, held the Brazzaville Conference and proposed a plan to establish the “French Alliance”. In an editorial published on August 15, 1945, Jean Pilot, the reporter and editor-in-chief of the French newspaper “Le Dawn”, spliced ​​the two words France and Africa together, “France and Africa are closely related” ( The term françafrique was born. In October 1946, the Constitution of the Fourth French Republic was promulgated, which confirmed that the relationship between France and its colonial countries existed in the form of the “French Union”, which were also known as the “French Overseas Territories”. In May 1958, Charles de Gaulle, President of the Fifth French Republic, who had taken control of the French power, proposed the idea of ​​establishing a “French Community”, requiring the former French African colonial countries to hand over their foreign affairs, national defense, economy, finance, currency, justice, higher education, Power in areas such as transportation is jointly managed by France. In September 1958, French overseas territories adopted de Gaulle’s plan in a collective referendum (except Guinea). At this point, these French African colonies entered the era of the “French Community”.
  In the 1960s, French African colonies got rid of Western colonial rule and declared independence one after another. In order to maintain political, economic, and social stability, French-speaking African countries chose to continue to be tied to France in the early days of independence, signed common development agreements, and accepted the “new model” of “close France-Africa relations.” The “French Community” became France’s secret gateway to safeguard its right to rule over Africa. French-speaking African countries have signed a series of cooperation agreements with France, including military garrison and currency. They fully accept the practices of the “French Community” era and maintain the common currency and France’s most favorable conditions in the economic and trade fields. At the same time, under the agreement, Africa was prohibited from developing processing industries.
  Garrison and currency were regarded by France as new tools for colonizing Africa. Under the French Union, France used these two tools to safeguard its political and economic interests in Africa’s “back garden.” Especially in the economic field, France saves exchange costs under the condition of fixed exchange rates. It can buy African resources at low prices and sell French industrial processed products at high prices, thereby capturing high added value. Such trade conditions restrict the economic growth of French-speaking Africa, hinder the industrialization development of these countries, and reduce the competitiveness of African products. Horace Campbell, director of the Center for African Studies at Syracuse University in the United States and chairman of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, commented in his book “NATO Globalization and the Disastrous Defeat of Libya – Lessons for African Integration”: “There is no In the back garden of Africa, France’s economic strength is only equal to that of Austria.”
Two tools: currency and garrisons

  The concept of the CFA franc was born in December 1945 and was called the “African colonial franc”. At that time, France, faced with the high inflation rate after World War II, announced the devaluation of the French franc against the U.S. dollar. The exchange rate between the CFA franc and the French franc was fixed at 1:1.17. This accelerated the dumping of French products, raised the price of African raw materials, and made Other countries cannot get involved in African products, thus safeguarding France’s interests in Africa.
  The CFA franc is subdivided into the West African CFA franc and the Central African CFA franc. The two currencies are issued by two African central banks, the Central Bank of West African States and the Bank of Central African States respectively. Among them, the West African CFA franc circulates in eight African countries, including Benin, Mali, Togo, Niger, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau; the Central African CFA franc circulates in six countries, including Chad, Gabon, Congo (Brazzaville), Cameroon, Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea. Although the two francs are of different currencies, they can be exchanged at equivalent prices, and they have maintained a stable exchange rate with the French franc for a long time. After France joined the EU, the exchange rate of the euro against the CFA franc has remained at a level of 1:656 for a long time, with relatively small fluctuations.

  The CFA franc is operated by the French Treasury. As a condition to ensure that the exchange rate does not float, member countries must open operating accounts at the French Bank and ensure that 50% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings are dynamically stored in this account, and France can use these foreign exchange reserves. CFA franc coinage is carried out in France, and nearly a hundred French technical staff and consultants are directly involved in the supervision and management of the two central banks. The CFA franc is France’s “invisible weapon” to dominate Africa. It is regarded as a manifestation of France’s soft power in Africa, helping France to firmly control the economic lifeline of French-speaking Africa. The pegged exchange rate has played a “stabilizing” role in the economies of French-speaking African countries, but at the same time it has constrained their economic growth and threatened political security. In 2019, West African countries launched vigorous currency reforms. Eight West African countries have reached an agreement with France to cancel the West African CFA franc in the future. In May 2020, the French Cabinet of Ministers approved the West African CFA franc reform plan. The West African CFA franc used in West African countries was called “Eco” after the reform. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Summit held in June 2021 showed that ECOWAS member states will implement a new currency convergence agreement between 2022 and 2026, and will use the single currency “Eko” in 2027. Some commentators believe that this phased reform echoes the financial nationalism trend in West African countries.
  The garrison is seen as a manifestation of France’s hard power in Africa, and armed intervention and counter-terrorism are its tools to maintain the “hidden French community.” Previously, France had military bases in Djibouti, Gabon, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Niger, Chad and other countries, and the French army also sent a large number of instructors to train troops from relevant countries. Regarding armed intervention and military operations, statistics show that since most African countries became independent in the 1960s, France has carried out 40 armed interventions in 16 African countries; since 2011, France has launched five major military operations in Africa. Large-scale military operations, including “Operation Unicorn” in Côte d’Ivoire, “Operation Odyssey Dawn” in Libya, “Operation Sangarine” in Central Africa, “Operation Serval” and “Operation Barkhane” in Mali “. The French-led war in Libya directly led to the continuous crisis in the Sahel region. Terrorist organizations such as “Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” and Nigeria’s “Boko Haram” took advantage of the situation, leading to a serious deterioration of the regional situation. Since 2020, military coups have occurred in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger in the region. The military regimes in these countries are seriously dissatisfied with France’s actions in the Sahel region, and the anti-French sentiment among the people in the three countries is rising. At present, France has gradually withdrawn its troops from the three countries.
The breakdown of democracy and development

  Frederic Legendle pointed out in his book “The Fall of France in Africa” ​​(published in 2022), “Maintaining its privileged interests in Africa is the basic consideration of France’s Africa policy. France has always adhered to ‘realpolitik’ ‘, committed to building a French-style Africa from multiple perspectives.” From de Gaulle to Macron, the tone of France’s Africa policy has remained unchanged, but its approach has been different.
  In June 1990, then-French President Mitterrand expressed support for democratization and multi-party reform in African countries. In his speech, Mitterrand also proposed a new innovative tool – linking economic assistance to democracy. However, France acquiesced to the authoritarian regimes in some French-speaking African countries at the time. Mitterrand’s new policy proposition ran counter to France’s support for African oligarchies and posed hidden dangers. Former Guinean Prime Minister Celou Dalein Diallo believes that France’s double standards objectively encouraged young people to take to the streets to cause trouble during the general election, and also encouraged corrupt regimes in African countries.
  As for Chirac, some scholars have commented that Chirac is still conservative towards Africa in general. Although he carried out “de-specialization” reforms during his first term, he eventually returned to the old path of maintaining the “special relationship between France and Africa” .
  After Sarkozy came to power, he tried to normalize relations between France and Africa, and also proposed that “France should help African countries defend democracy and actively combat corruption.” However, examples such as the Libyan War showed that his policy eventually returned to the path of interventionism. The Hollande and Macron governments focus on issues such as African youth and women, and the shared historical memory of France and Africa. Specifically, Macron implemented African currency reform during his first term and announced the establishment of a “new partnership” with Africa during his second term. However, he was regarded by the outside world as “openly building a plank but secretly building a plan”. In March this year, Congolese President Tshisekedi publicly accused France of its “paternalistic” style in cooperation with Africa. Relevant comments also believe that the Macron government has chosen to operate more secretly and continue to exert influence over Africa. For example, on the eve of the 2018 Democratic Republic of the Congo election, the United States, together with the United States, put pressure on the Democratic Republic of the Congo through the presidents of Rwanda and Angola, forcing Kabila Jr. to withdraw from the election. For another example, in the 2020 Guinea general election, the Macron government used lobbying agents to prevent Alpha Conte from holding a referendum on constitutional amendments.
Economic diversification, political Pan-Africanization

  Facts have shown that French-speaking Africa has not benefited from the “French Community”. Poverty, war, and disease still plague the people on this continent. In the past 20 years, under the process of economic globalization, French-speaking African countries have opened their markets one after another, and global partners such as China, Japan, Russia, Turkey, and Germany have also integrated into the economic development trend of the African continent. Africa’s economy has been diversified and its politics have become pan-African. The trend is becoming increasingly obvious. France attempts to save the overall situation and continue to maintain its “French Community”. However, in the past two years, military coups have occurred in French-speaking African countries, and the “good students” and “bad students” trained under the French democratic wave and the “unfailing dynasties” they established have stepped down. This menacing, domino-like wave of coups illustrates the disillusionment of the “French Community.”
  Today, French-speaking African countries are exploring new paths for the diversified development of democracy and people’s livelihood in the context of globalization. The rapid rise of the BRICS countries and their contribution to the African market have further broadened the horizons of African governance. African countries have begun to seek independent development paths that suit their own national conditions, and South-South cooperation is also in the ascendant. According to statistics, the BRICS countries have absorbed more than 60% of the export trade of African countries (less than a quarter in the 1990s).
  In October 2021, a young man from Burkina Faso bluntly said at the France-Africa Summit Youth Dialogue held in Montpellier, “Practice has proved that French aid cannot promote Africa’s development, and Africa must follow the path of independent development. As Dioro, chairman of Friends of China in Mali, emphasized in an interview with the author, “The wave of coups led by young people on the African continent in the past two years shows the end of French and Western hegemony in Africa. It also shows that Africa The beginning of the country embarking on the path of independent development.”

In the past two years, military coups have occurred in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Niger, Gabon and other African countries. At the same time, an anti-French wave swept these countries. These countries were former French colonies and had extraordinary relations with France. However, France’s close relationship with Africa has bred dictatorship, decadence and backwardness, shackled Africa’s dreams of democracy and development, and aroused dissatisfaction among the people represented by the majority of young people in African countries. There are various signs that France has lost the trust of the African people, and the African continent has begun to explore a truly independent development path.

The concept of “French Africa” refers to the close political, economic, and cultural ties between France and its former African colonies. This relationship has been characterized by France’s continued influence over these countries, often through neocolonial means such as preferential trade agreements and military interventions.

One of the most visible symbols of France’s influence in Africa is the CFA franc, a currency used by 14 African countries. The CFA franc is pegged to the euro, and France has significant control over its management. This has been criticized by many as a form of economic neocolonialism, as it limits the ability of African countries to set their own monetary policies.

Another aspect of France’s influence in Africa is its military presence. France has troops stationed in several African countries, and it has intervened militarily in numerous African conflicts. These interventions have been controversial, as they have often been seen as protecting French interests rather than the interests of the African people.

In recent years, there has been a growing backlash against France’s influence in Africa. This is due in part to the perceived failures of French policies, such as the CFA franc and military interventions. It is also due to the rise of a new generation of African leaders who are more assertive and less willing to accept French domination.

The rise of Pan-Africanism is another factor contributing to the decline of France’s influence in Africa. Pan-Africanism is a political movement that promotes unity and cooperation among African countries. It is based on the idea that Africa has a shared history, culture, and destiny, and that African countries should work together to achieve their full potential.

Pan-Africanism is gaining momentum as African countries seek to break free from the shackles of neocolonialism and forge their own path in the world. This is evident in the creation of new African institutions, such as the African Union and the African Continental Free Trade Area.

China is also playing an increasingly important role in Africa. China has invested heavily in infrastructure and development projects in Africa, and it has become a major trading partner for many African countries. This has helped to reduce Africa’s dependence on France and other Western powers.

The decline of France’s influence in Africa is a complex phenomenon with no easy answers. However, it is clear that the old order is changing, and that Africa is entering a new era of independence and Pan-Africanism.

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