Macron faces an uphill climb in Africa

Briefly: French President Emmanuel Macron wrapped up a four day trip to Africa on Sunday, after visits to Gabon, Angola, Congo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was his 18th visit to the continent, and culminated in a promise by Macron to reset relations with France’s former colonies there.

Last year alone, Burkina Faso and Mali expelled French forces, and France withdrew its troops from the Central African Republic. So Macron’s offer to reset relations is a little like offering to go to jail after the judge has already banged her gavel: i.e., merci for the offer Monsieur President, but it’s happening anyway. 

Still, Macron says he’ll end the age of French intervention known as Franceafrique and work with the continent on Africa’s terms. For now, this means further reducing troop numbers and co-managing French bases in Africa with host governments.

Intrigue’s take: Geopolitics abhors a vacuum, and recent US, Russian and Chinese high-level visits to Africa have sought to fill the vacuum left there by France last year.

But while Macron says he has “no nostalgia about France-in-Africa” (he’s the first French president born after the country’s colonial era), his trip suggests he has no intention of ceding French influence any further. 

As Macron himself said: “Africa is a theatre of competition… We have our role to play, no more, no less.

Also worth noting: 

  • Macron attended the One Forest Summit during his time in Gabon and pledged $53M to conservation initiatives. 
  • In a sign of Russia’s growing influence, some protestors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo called on Macron to offer “help to Mr Putin.”
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