Macron goes to Africa to save France's reputation


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The French leadership concluded that it is urgent to go to Africa and save the situation. More precisely, it was necessary the day before yesterday. Now the presence - political and economic - of Russia and China is becoming quite evident. And that means the loss of France's traditional spheres of influence.

The President of the Republic decided not only to follow the route Gabon - Angola - Congo - Democratic Republic of Congo, but also announced that from now on African high-level tours will take place every six months.

"What is happening on the African continent must simply be humbly accepted," Macron said at a press conference before the tour. - This is an unprecedented historical situation, with staggering challenges concerning security, climate, and demography. That implies "a new approach to Africa." 

This approach primarily involves the dynamic development of relations with countries throughout the continent. It would seem convenient to return to cooperation with former French colonies, but this is not the case. We should note that one of Macron's stops is Angola, which was not a French colony, but very much a Portuguese one. And the DRC was Belgian.

The geographical expansion of interests is also due to the fact that, according to Chrysoula Zaharopoulou, French Secretary of State for Development and Francophonie, "today African countries freely choose their partners, and the anti-French sentiment in former colonies only complicates our situation."

Moreover, during his first tour, in 2017, Macron still insisted on a kind of "soft power" with which France was present in Africa. The result was exactly the opposite. Anti-French demonstrations took place in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Senegal, and as a result, the French contingent withdrew from Mali and Burkina Faso.

At a press conference, the president called to abandon the proverbial pré carré principle. This is an invention of the ingenious military engineer of the 17th century de Vauban. He imagined a certain geometric figure, most often a square, surrounded by two fortification moats. Everything inside is ours. Everything outside is not worth noticing. Now, according to the logic of the French authorities, everything is ours.

For this purpose, France developed a new economic program, for some reason called in English style "Choose Africa 2," with a budget of 3 billion euros. Its essence is to promote as much as possible the spread of French investment in African startups, which are multiplying at a staggering rate and you can not have enough time.

But the loss of positions began even before Macron. In 20 years, the market share of French companies in Africa has fallen from 10.6 to 4.4 percent. By comparison, the share of Chinese companies rose from 3.8 to about 18 percent.

France will invest in African agriculture, automobiles, rail transport, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, and a new energy structure called the "energy transition." In addition, France intends to promote the development of public administration, education, and health care.

The very important dossier of this tour is military. It has been decided that France will leave in Africa only bases of dual command, jointly with local militaries, similar to the Franco-German ones. For this purpose, a "tangible", in Macron's words, reduction of the French contingent will begin in the coming months and, of course, it will require serious training of African military specialists and supplies of modern weapons and technical equipment.

Now the French have three thousand troops left on the African continent out of five and a half thousand. Most of them are stationed in Niger and Chad, and they are transferred to Guinea, so as to be less of a nuisance to the rampant jihadist groups.

"The Russian bear has awakened the Gallic rooster," believes Antoine Glaser, an expert on Africa. He is the author of the book "Macron's African Trap," which describes how Russia, in particular the Wagner PMC, has taken significant positions in Africa. "At the beginning of his second mandate," he writes, "Macron finally realized that he had to cooperate with countries he had bypassed or ignored before, and now, to truly protect France's interests, he has to move on to Realpolitik."

On his first trip to the continent, Macron first visited Cameroon, which is strategically located between the Atlantic and Chad, and had a French contingent there. Three months earlier, Cameroon had signed a military cooperation agreement with Russia, and this greatly undermined the French position in the country. During his entire visit, the French president referred to Russia as "one of the last colonial powers."

Incidentally, three of the four countries on the African tour - Gabon, Congo and Angola - abstained during the recent UN vote on the resolution concerning the situation in Ukraine.

Speaking to ambassadors of the Republic last fall, Macron urged diplomats to "respond instantly to anti-French propaganda outbursts on social media and fight back against the Russian, Chinese and Turkish narratives.

Another dossier of Macron's African visit is the return of cultural treasures that have ended up in France and which the countries of the continent have been demanding for a long time. It is announced that the French Ministry of Culture will soon begin to work out the criteria by which it will be decided what to transfer and whether the Paris Branly Museum, the main repository of African history and art that Chirac has been collecting for so long, will not be emptied.