French President Emmanuel Macron starts his first tour of Africa on Monday. He is to visit Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana in an effort to revitalise France’s image on the continent.
Macron’s advisers say he hopes to modernise France’s relations with Africa by emphasising business links, education and sport rather than development aid.
Although Macron has pledged to increase France’s aid budget to 0.55 percent of GDP by 2022, France’s aid budget was cut by 140 million euros in July as part of 4.5 billion euros of reductions in public spending.
This summer the French president set up a committee to advise him on Africa policy.
It is made up primarily of young businesspeople with dual nationality and close connections with their country of origin.
As well as countering hostility to France’s influence over its former colonies, which is particularly strong among young people, Macron also has to bury the memory of his controversial remark at a G20 meeting that Africa has “civilisational” problems, among them African women having “seven or eight children”.
Big speech in Burkina
In Burkina Faso on Tuesday the French president will deliver a speech on his Africa policy in front of 800 students at Ouagadougou University – a challenge, given that many Burkinabé resent the fact that France helped former president Blaise Compaoré flee to Côte d’Ivoire when he was toppled by massive demonstrations.
Burkina is also demanding the extradition of Compaoré’s brother, François, in a case relating to the death of a journalist in 1998.
Several organisations have called a demonstration during Macron’s visit to protest at the “plundering” of the country’s natural resources by French companies, French military presence and the continued existence of the CFA franc, which they claim is a “colonial currency”.
In the Côte d’Ivoire capital, Abidjan, he will attend a Europe-Africa summit where he hopes to link relations with Africa to his plans for European Union reform.
Macron is pushing for European countries to support the G5 African military force in the Sahel and coordinate efforts to stop people smuggling from countries such as Libya.
He will also lay the foundation stone of the Abidjan metro, a project being undertaken by French-Korean consortium Bouygues-Dongsan and supported by a 1.4 billion-euro French loan.
His final destination, Ghana, is a former British colony, not a French one, a sign that he has a “continental approach to Africa”, according to his advisers.