Macron Focuses on Africa as Cornerstone of Foreign Policy
President Emmanuel Macron arrived earlier this week in Nigeria to reassure the African country that France’s latest interest in the nation is more than just an attempt to revisit colonialism. Africa has become the linchpin of Macron’s foreign policy to reassert French power on the world stage. Since his election, Macron has pledged to make France a more important figure in the world, declaring in a speech in January that “France is back.” Last fall, Macron visited West Africa to show that France was intent on redefining its relationship with its former colonies of Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. Macron’s trip also marked the first official visit of a French president to the nation of Ghana.
Analysts have seen Macron’s efforts at reasserting France as a major player in global policy as largely successful. Christian Lequesne, an expert at Sciences Po in Paris, praised Macron’s actions in an interview with reporters, saying, “We went from being a country in decline to a country that’s moving forward, full of energy.” In a speech to all of France’s 170 ambassadors last summer, Macron reiterated the importance of Africa on the world stage, saying that the continent is vital to the future of the world. Macron also established the Presidential Council of Africa, an eleven-member group that will advise him on issues facing the continent. Macron’s efforts to have good relationships with African countries comes in the wake of strained relations between France and its former colonies following independence in the 1960s. To prove that he is serious about having a positive relationship with African countries, Macron pledged €200 million to the Global Partnership for Education, a nonprofit organization that aides school children in the developing world. Additionally, Macron has pledged to return many African antiquities being held in France to their countries of origin.
Macron’s efforts to reach out to Africa has been met with skepticism by many Africans. Protesters threw stones at cars in Macron’s delegation and held up signs that said, “Down with new colonialism,” prompting police to respond with teargas. In Burkina Faso, protesters even attempted to attack French troops with grenades. The attack was unsuccessful, but three civilians were injured in the blast. The issue is compounded by reports by many government watchdog groups and other nonprofit organizations that see France as supporting corrupt leaders to further its foreign policy. Government watchdog groups even accuse Paris of undermining economic development and civil rights in third world countries.
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