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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
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.

AppleAndroid