News / Europe

Politics, Economics Influence Africa's French Connection

FILE - French President Francois Hollande (R) and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius attend the opening session of the Elysee Summit for Peace and Security in Africa at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, Dec. 6, 2013.
FILE - French President Francois Hollande (R) and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius attend the opening session of the Elysee Summit for Peace and Security in Africa at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, Dec. 6, 2013.
Pamela Dockins
— About two-thirds of the 8,400 French troops involved in foreign operations are based in Africa, primarily in Mali and the Central African Republic. Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande said recently that he wants his country to double its trade to Africa over the next five years. Together, the developments could indicate the former colonial power in Africa is again trying to bolster its influence on the continent. 
 
France has carried out more than 10 major military interventions on the African continent since the early 1990s, in countries including Chad, Ivory Coast and Libya.
 
This year, France gained international attention for its leading role in intervening in the crisis in Mali and now the Central African Republic.
 
Peter Pham, the director of the Atlantic Council's Africa Center, thinks France has a variety of motives for its recent military forays into Africa.
 
On VOA's Encounter Program, he said one reason is French President Francois Hollande's lagging support at home.
 
"His poll numbers have cratered and one of the few areas that he enjoys a certain support in the French electorate has been his foreign policy. The intervention in Mali was very popular and he certainly received a lot of applause for the intervention in the CAR," explained Pham.
 
In addition to political motives, Pham pointed out that France has economic and humanitarian interests in Africa.
 
Paul Melly, a journalist and Africa analyst at Chatham House, said he does not think France is on an all-out push for expansion in Africa.
 
"I don’t think it is a crude traditional attempt to restore or enhance French influence. I think it is a more mature or considered view, if you like. Over the long term, it’s in France’s interest just as in the interest of Europe as a whole for Africa to be stable and prosperous," said Melly.
 
This month, President Hollande hosted about 40 African leaders at a Paris summit. Ahead of the meeting, Hollande announced that he wanted to double France's exports to the continent over the next five years.
 
His comments came at a time when China dominates trade with Africa, and countries such as Brazil and India are trying to make inroads.
 
Aline Leboeuf, a researcher at the French Institute of International Relations, said that while France is trying to increase its economic influence in Africa, it is not necessarily trying to take on China.
 
"What France would like to do is increase its presence in the field of business in Africa in general and especially in Anglophone countries," said Leboeuf.
 
She noted that France is especially interested in boosting its business presence in the larger African countries, such as Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.
 
Lansiné Kaba, a history professor at Carnegie Mellon University and the former president of the African Studies Association at Rutgers University, said that there is a notable distinction between China's more recent involvement in Africa and what France has been doing.
 
"The relationship cannot, for the time being, and should not, for the time being, compare to that of France. China does not intervene in a military manner throughout Africa. The Chinese have been investing primarily," Kaba pointed out.
 
Professor Kaba says France is doing what it knows how to do in Africa: develop meaningful relationships with African states.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid