French Policy in Africa: Calls for Change

With the French presidential elections approaching, Sylvian Touati examines if a new generation of leaders could bring change to France’s influence in Africa and whether the recent shift towards multilateral action is a sign of things to come for the continent.

The World Today
Published 1 December 2006 Updated 12 November 2020 4 minute READ

Sylvian Touati

Author of a Chatham House Africa Programme Briefing Paper on French Policy in Africa

As the battle for the presidency begins in Paris, so too does the contest to forge new ties with the African continent. Adversaries Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal, the most likely contenders in the May elections, have wasted no time in presenting the media with photo opportunities meant to herald a fresh approach. When tough-talking Sarkozy visited Mali earlier this year, he attacked President Jacques Chirac’s Fançafrique policy and called for ‘new relations’ between France and Africa. Meanwhile, determined to play up her African roots, Royal chose to visit Senegal, the country of her birth.

Their travels illustrate just how vital it is that presidential candidates appear interested in Franco-African policy.

And the reason behind this is clear. For a potential premier who wants international recognition, where better to begin than in Africa, where France’s influence is as considerable as it is controversial. Francophone Africa in particular, is fertile ground.

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