Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

France and Africa. New relationship?

March 26, 2009

Before Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president in 2007, he made clear he wanted to break with France’s old way of doing business in Africa – a cosy blend of post-colonial corruption and patronage known as “Françafrique” that suited a fair few African dictators and the French establishment alike.

He has made the same point during his past visits to the continent.

“The old pattern of relations between France and Africa is no longer understood by new generations of Africans, or for that matter by public opinion in France. We need to change the pattern of relations between France and Africa if we want to look at the future together,” Sarkozy said in South Africa early last year.

This week he is back in Africa for a visit on which France’s business interests play a very prominent role.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sarkozy called on the country to work with former foes Rwanda and Uganda in a partnership based on exploiting the region’s natural riches.

Another stop was in neighbouring Congo Republic to see President Denis Sassou Nguesso, an old friend of France who seized power in the oil-producing state in 1979, lost it in a 1992 election and then returned five years later via a civil war. In the past, Congo Republic symbolised as much as anywhere the old style of diplomacy.

After the Congos, the schedule takes Sarkozy to Niger, a particularly important country for nuclear power dependent France because of the uranium mining interests of French state-controlled nuclear energy group Areva. It is building a huge new mine in Niger, where the government is fighting Tuareg rebels who demand more of the region’s wealth.

Sarkozy is doing nothing different from other world leaders by bringing along a bevy of executives keen to sign deals. France also faces a great deal of competition from China and others in what it used to treat as its “backyard” and is keen to ensure it does not lose out.

In Brazzaville, Sarkozy repeated the pledge he made a year ago to renegotiate all France’s accords with African countries and to make sure they are published in full. But the pace of progress so far has raised questions over how determined France is to break with the past. What do you think the prospects for change are? Is it important?

France‘s President Nicolas Sarkozy with Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso in Brazzaville March 26, 2009. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer


African countries colonized by France should not wait for France to change its politics toward them. They must take their economic independence confiscated in some unfair agreement since 1960. My generation knows what system we want to leave in. A systeme where our natural ressources are used to fight poverty, develop and prosper. France does not want competition in Africa, they dont want to go by the rules of the free market. They have established a corrupted system where the wealth from the natural ressources goes to cvorrupted official by france. When we dont want that system but a system where competition is key, France would create a rebellion to stop the changes. Anyway my generation got it, our destiny is in our hands, and we know the power of our sovereignty. Therefore we know we will get our respect back from the French when we open up our markets to other countries when france comes to reality that some african countries are not its backyard any more.

YZ Madou


France is one of the greatest democratic country in the world, but it is always implausible to see how uncivilised international relations it nurtured and sustained with its african partners. One does not need to search for scientific statistics to conclude that the only countries in Africa with high political, economical and social instability are either French colonised or French speaking.
Long before he set out for his latest trip to Africa, demonstrations were held in France and elsewhere about the new vision of President Sarkozy over “Democratic” Republic of Congo. His plan to have Rwanda and Uganda to exploit Congolese natural resources as a way to pacify the region bears germs of conflict for generations to come. The contrast is that France is in silent protectionism when it is shutting down car plants in Eastern Europe to boost jobs creation at home while America and Britain are spending to starve off banking financial crisis. If anything, France years of support to our dictators have left African with a bitter taste of its malicious development aid.


‘New relationship’; are you kidding?

Interesting how the article omits that Jean-Marie Bockel, the ex-minister of international co-operation in charge of la francophonie, was fired not long after he pledged (following in Sarko’s footsteps) to “sign the death certificate of franceafrique” . His replacement Alain Joyandet, a former provincial mayor, hardly boasts the reforming pedigree to take on Omar Bongo et al, nvermind the Quai d’Orsay.

Franceafrique is changing – but that’s down to emerging domestic middle-classes and civil society demanding increasing openness from their leaders, certainly not because of France.

Transparency is the enemy here. Many Gaullist and Socialist politicians, along with their African allies, would suddenly find their campaign coffers out of pocket if things changed for the better.


I’m reminded of India during the Raj when I hear these laments from Middle class Africans. The existence of corruption and disunity is the reason for the present neo- colonial situation, not the French alone. If there was no avenue for corruption the French would have gone elsewhere or reformed! We in the post colonial world do this to ourselves by not staying united and making our hard fought freedom Worthless.

Posted by Dr Sibhi Ganapathy | Report as abusive

France is also busy trying to develop ties with my country Somaliland but it’s one that is not popular with almost all the Somalilanders because we have seen what France has done to many African states and we will do our best to stay away from French products and France as whole, they are racist, stubborn and always comparing themselves to the English. My country traditionally had ties with England, and England never gave us any problems, right now however England has betrayed us because it will not move ahead with the recognition we demanding, instead saying its African Union’s job.

That’s why we leaning towards France and Sarkosy, they becoming more active than the English, but once we get our recognition bye bye France.

I dont think Africans like stubborn French, dont even understand why so many Africans in France.

No thanks France, Africa is fine without you.

Posted by Kayse | Report as abusive

i think the prospect for change is good simply because old world nations like France have an interest in the evolution of Africa into a continent of consumption,a continent that imports as well as exports,the natural resources are plenty but the rampant corruption has stifled even that…..and in the past europe benefitted from that,but the changes in world economies has changed all that.

Posted by Ricardo Mesa | Report as abusive

No country could escape from its past (including France)that presents the picture of a imperialist hegemon. In international relations nothing changes completely. At most, one can change ones policy options since IR is ever changing, but the core goals always remain the same. Here one can take this change in policy as a revival of an old tradition in a different form. France is another country in the league of China,US and India who are all struggling for future energy resources so that there economic progress could sustain in longer terms.

Simultaneously, it presents an opportunity to the poor and conflict ridden African countries to choose with whom they want to ally and bargain and upto what extent.

Posted by Hari K. Sharma | Report as abusive

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see