The relationship between France and Africa has been one that Africans have repeatedly questioned and countless times condemned as being exploitative, dictatorial and maintaining neo-colonial interests.
Earlier this year, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, also condemned France’s policy in Africa saying, “If we have people who are leaving Africa now it’s because some European countries, and France in particular, have never stopped colonising Africa.”Di Maio said France’s policies in Africa are impoverishing and causing people to migrate from the continent.
Commenting further on the relationship between France and its former African colonies, the Italian stated that, “If France didn’t have its African colonies, because that’s what they should be called, it would be the 15th largest world economy. Instead it’s among the first, exactly because of what it is doing in Africa.” Would you say the Italian is wrong after all?
Truth be told, systematic international exploitation of Africa did not end with colonialism. Exploitation is very much alive today. But the system has changed; no longer do we have colonialism, but imperialism and neo-colonialism.
The French have been at the frontline as regards the enslavement, colonisation and raping of Africa. They stole our gold, diamonds and other natural resources to build all those fancy buildings you see in Paris today.
In March 2008, former French President Jacques Chirac said, “without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third [world] power.” In 1957, Francois Mitterand, a former French president similarly said, “Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century.”
Yet, despite France making Africa feels valuable, they are still one of those countries that, by printing money (CFA franc) for 14 African states, dwarfs their economic development and contributes to the fact that Africans die in the sea, while seeking for greener pastures.
France, despite giving independence to their former colonies, still holds the national reserves of 14 African Countries since 1961: Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon as a payment of infrastructure built by France during colonisation.
France prints a common currency (CFA franc) for these 14 countries which in doubt adds to the retrogression of these African countries in economic development.
The CFA franc was created by France in the late 1940s to serve as a legal tender in its then-African colonies, and it is one of the most prominent signs of France’s continued influence over its former colonies.
This currency has since 1999 pegged to the euro with the financial backing of the French treasury. Currently a euro is worth 656 CFA francs. While some see it as a guarantee of financial stability, others attack it as a colonial relic.
Further, the 14 African countries put 50 percent? Of their foreign reserves at Bank of France and they can only use 15 percent of it annually. It is mandatory for them to borrow their own money from France if they want to spend more.
All the aforementioned countries cannot enter into military alliance in the world unless agreed by France.
France has the first right to buy any natural resources found on the territory of its ex-colonies. The African countries are not allowed to seek other partners freely. Now tell me, in what meaningful way can any of the 14 CFA countries be said to be independent?
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Likewise, the fall of Gadaffi was their handiwork. Albeit, only few persons liked the tyrant, but no one could dispute the subtle fact that he was a pan-Africanist. It was a well-known fact that Muammar Gadaffi had amassed gold bullions worth US$350 billion to back his African Single Currency project. Anybody who championed such a cause would be an enemy of the French and the Americans. Which is why when they overthrew him, the gold disappeared. And what have we got? Libya in ruins ever since.
Due to lack of infrastructure, a poor corporate culture and bad governance. French-speaking countries are, in recent years, lagging behind their English-speaking neighbours.
Whilst languor has spread its tentacles from Dakar through Yaoundé to Kinshasa, inciting people to dream of emigration, life is beaming with vigour from Accra through Lagos to Nairobi, with flourishing projects
Countries belonging to the mainly French-speaking Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA) have been growing at an average rate of 3.4 percent per annum in the last ten years, whilst those of the mainly English-speaking East Africa Community (EAC) have registered a 5.4 percent growth rate.
With regard to human development, seven of the ten worst ranked (out of 187) by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are French-speaking African states, and three of them- Burundi, Niger and DRC – occupy the last three positions.
While France has been identified as a root cause of the problems in Francophone Africa, the major question remains, what can the African Union, the presidents of these francophone countries and the general people do?
Countries of the African region are the most poorest of the entire world. Madagascar, Rwanda, Congo, Benin are some of the examples of the African countries who are suffering from poverty. Another common trait among these poor African countries is that they are all French speaking countries.
Albeit, there are also powerful linkages among African countries when it comes to poverty but the level at which they deepen in poverty varies. For example, out of the 14 African countries currently considered off-track to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SGD) 1, eight are members of the Francophonie.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, also known as DRC or Congo Kinshasa is the fourth biggest country in Africa by population. With a population of more than 80 million people, DRC is the largest French speaking country in the world. The DRC is considered the richest country in the world in natural resources. The country has about 70% of the world’s Coltan deposits, about 30% of the world’s cobalt, 30% of global diamond reserves, and a tenth of the world’s copper deposits.
However, despite having such vast natural resources, the DRC is one of the poorest countries in the world today. This is because of the country’s poor infrastructure, and deep-rooted corruption but predominantly, neo-colonial exploitation – which have accounted to the poor economic growth in the country. This is applicable to many other ex-French colonies.
Concurrently, mounting debts, sluggish growth, exploding populations, and high unemployment are pushing many Africans still at home to seek their fortunes elsewhere. In many parts of French-speaking African nations, particularly North Africa (Morocco, Mauritania, and Libya), trafficking immigrants to Europe has become more lucrative than drug trafficking. Illegal immigration to Europe usually occurs by boat via the Mediterranean Sea, or in some cases by land at the Spanish Enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, and has made international headlines. Many migrants risk serious injury or death during their journey to Europe and most of those whose claim for asylum are deported back to Africa.
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With France exploitative nature – hence rendering its ex-colonies to stunted growth, you shouldn’t wonder why French presidents and ministers are sometimes greeted by protests when they visit former French colonies in Africa.
It is a tragedy that a country that sees itself at the very heart of universal civilisation can dent its own greatness, not in its innate creativity, but in being a parasite and thief of other people’s natural resources. Africa is poor and underdeveloped today – and well so, no thanks to France’s neo-colonialism interests!