« Has MACRON measured the loss of influence of France in Africa? », By Achille MBEMBE

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African intellectuals respond to Emmanuel Macron (1/3). Following the interview given by the French head of state to Jeune Afrique on November 20, several intellectuals wanted to respond to him. Jeune Afrique has chosen to publish three of their contributions.

Those who had the opportunity to exchange with President Emmanuel Macron on the subject of French policy in Africa will have been struck by his pugnacity and his liveliness of mind. His long interview with Jeune Afrique, however, left many perplexed, especially those who were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. The skeptics, on the other hand, are claiming victory. From the outset, they denounced the effort to pass off as an in-depth review of Franco-African relations what, in their eyes, was a mere marketing operation.

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How can we prove them entirely wrong? Flagrant absence of historical imagination indeed. No political words of weight. Not a single concept. As one flies through these pages, one comes away with the firm impression that France aspires to only one thing, on a continent whose vital role in this century it nevertheless recognizes. To make money.

Cynicism and reason of state

Better yet, to make money the way China and its coldly predatory imperialism does. China, this newcomer that is often presented as a repellent by day, but that one cannot help but admire at nightfall, the dragon that plunders happily, and that, without bothering with any civilizing mission, forces Africans to pledge their soil, subsoil and other goods and to sell everything, in the hope of paying off colossal debts, the bulk of which will have been embezzled by venal elites.

Caricature? Hardly. Astonishment? No more. In many parts of the world, liberalism is now combined with nationalism and authoritarianism. Very few states or regimes today can put the weight of exemplary conduct on the admonitions they wish to make to others. Why, in the new race for the continent, should France deprive itself of advantages that its competitors have hardly renounced?

Emmanuel Macron would like France to show the same virility without being constantly reminded of its colonial past. Or that it be reminded each time of its hypothetical duties in the defense of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. After all, if Africans want democracy, why don’t they pay the price themselves?

Emmanuel Macron would like France to show the same virility without being constantly reminded of its colonial past. Or that it be reminded each time of its hypothetical duties in the defense of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. After all, if Africans want democracy, why don’t they pay the price themselves?

Staggering loss of influence

If, in this world of larceny, cold calculation and cynicism prevail, what distinguishes Emmanuel Macron from his predecessors? Has he, better than them, taken the exact measure of what is actually at stake, namely the vertiginous loss of influence of France in Africa since the mid-1990s? It does not matter that some people are sorry about this while others are happy about it. In either case, we have indeed reached the end of a historical cycle.