News

    Africa - a Forgotten Issue in French Election

    Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy
    Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy
    Lisa Bryant

    The economy, jobs and immigration are hotly debated issues during France's presidential campaign. But foreign affairs are taking a backseat - and the country's longstanding ties with Africa are no exception.  

    The Chateau Rouge neighborhood in northern Paris is a second home to many immigrants from North and sub-Saharan Africa.  The busy streets are lined with African hairdressers, restaurants, clothing shops and phone stores offering cheap calls to families back home.

    There are also a few battered posters of the two finalists in Sunday's presidential runoff vote - incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Party frontrunner Francois Hollande.

    Forty-year-old Paulette Wetche, a hairdresser from Cameroon, is not interested in either candidate.

    Wetche, who has French citizenship, is not sure how she will cast her ballot on May 6.  As far as she is concerned, all politicians make promises they never keep.  So there is not much difference between Sarkozy and Hollande.

    Cheikh Lo, an illegal immigrant from Senegal, does not agree.

    Lo says under President Sarkozy, life in France has been difficult.  He is praying for Hollande to win the elections because he believes the Socialist candidate will help illegal immigrants like himself get their working papers in France.

    Sarkozy has cracked down on illegal immigration during his five years in office.  During his campaign, he has also said that France has too many immigrants - in what analysts describe as a bid to woo far-right voters.

    But it is not certain that Hollande will help illegal immigrants like Lo if he becomes president.  In an interview on French radio Friday,  he said that during the current economic slowdown, it is necessary to limit economic immigration to France - and that he would crack down on illegal immigrants.

    France's relationship with Africa is, of course, far broader than just immigration.  When he was elected to office in 2007, Sarkozy vowed to a radical break from traditional French-African relations, which critics say was marked by lack of transparency and cronyism.

    At a 2010 summit with African leaders in the southern city of Nice, Sarkozy said France and Africa have a special relationship - and it is impossible today to address major international issues without Africa.

    Has Sarkozy charted the new French-African relationship he promised?  Pierre Cherruau, editor-in-chief of the online publication, Slate Afrique, is not so sure.

    "It is very difficult to cut these kind of [strings] because there is a strong economic background - some very important French companies are linked to this network, like the oil business or the nuclear business - companies like Areva," said Cherruau.

    Still, Cherruau says there have been some changes.  Under Sarkozy, France has reduced its military footprint on the continent.  Sarkozy's government also argues relations are much more transparent.

    While Sarkozy has retained ties to some longtime African leaders, he has also forged new ones - including with the current, democratically elected presidents of Ivory Coast and Senegal.

    Cherruau believes that if Hollande is elected, he could usher in yet more changes.  Hollande, for example, took a tough line early on against former Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo, who once had close ties to France's socialist party.

    But Cherruau says Hollande lacks African experience - and that if African leaders could vote next Sunday, they would probably pick Sarkozy.

    "Most presidents in Africa feel closer to the conservative party," he said. "Because in the past, they had relations with the right wing, with the conservative party."

    At Chateau d'Eau, Wetche does not believe Sarkozy has improved French-African ties.  She looks at the issue from her own experience; life for her family back in Cameroon is just as tough as ever.

    Wetche says things could change under an Hollande presidency.  But these are hard times, she says, and it is very difficult to know which politician to trust.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora