On his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa, French President Nicolas Sarkozy laid out his vision for a new partnership between Europe and Africa. In a speech at the main university in Senegal's capital, Dakar, he said if Africa is ready to take itself into a new era of good governance, peace, and prosperity, France is ready to help. Naomi Schwarz reports from Dakar, some welcomed the call for self-reliance while others were angry at what they felt was a condescending tone.
Mr. Sarkozy was greeted by a large crowd as he arrived at Dakar's University Cheikh Anta Diop on Thursday evening.
As they waited, some expressed anger at Mr. Sarkozy's hard-line stance on immigration.
Others were appreciative of the close relationship Senegal and France have shared.
In a speech that lasted nearly an hour, Mr. Sarkozy gave a comprehensive view of how he sees Africa's history and called on Africa to find its own way forward.
He called on African youth, saying they want development, growth, and higher quality of life. He asked if they want to end corruption and violence. He spoke of ending famine, fighting pollution, and creating sustainable development.
But he said it is up to you to decide. If you want these things, France will do it with you.
Speaking in the capital of Senegal, once the capital of France's empire in West Africa, Mr. Sarkozy spoke of the legacy of colonialism. He said colonizers committed many errors and left a legacy of exploitation in Africa.
But Mr. Sarkozy said Africa must not blame colonization for all the wars, dictators, and other problems the continent has seen since independence.
He said colonization was a big mistake, but from this mistake Africa and Europe's intertwined destiny was born. Some students were inspired.
One law student said he wished his university professors had given history lectures like that.
And another said Mr. Sarkozy was right that Africans need to give up the idea of France or Europe as the answer to their dreams and look to Africa's own riches.
But others said they were insulted by Mr. Sarkozy's tone.
Khady Ndeye said she does not want to look backwards and she wanted to hear concrete things, to know what Mr. Sarkozy can and will do.
One issue many Senegalese hoped to hear concrete plans for was immigration. Thousands of Africans risk their lives every year to migrate to Europe illegally. Many more in Africa depend on money sent home by the legal and illegal immigrants working overseas.
At a news conference earlier in the afternoon, Mr. Sarkozy said he would continue to forcibly repatriate illegal immigrants. He said France approved more than 80 percent of visa applications from Senegal, but, he said, France cannot accommodate the whole world. And he reversed his earlier proposal for preferred immigration for educated Africans, saying the "brain drain," in which Africans go abroad for education and never return home, needs to end.