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Africans Shouldn’t Expect Changes from France After Socialist Win

Supporters of Socialist Party candidate for the presidential election Francois Hollande celebrate with champagne after the first results of the second round of French presidential elections outside Socialist Party campaign headquarters in Paris, France, S

France’s Socialist candidate Francois Hollande was celebrating a presidential victory Sunday, but the country’s former colonies in Africa have nothing to cheer, said Burundi economic consultant Zenon Nicayenzi.

“Yes, the Left has won,” he said. “But this doesn’t signify that the Left is going to fundamentally change the strategy of France.”

The economy, jobs and immigration were hotly debated during France's presidential campaign. But foreign affairs – including the country's longstanding ties with Africa – often took a backseat.

In Paris’ Chateau Rouge neighborhood, African businesses line the street, catering African immigrants who call Paris their second home.

Cheikh Lo, an illegal immigrant from Senegal, told VOA reporter Lisa Bryant he thought Hollande’s win was a victory for Africans, because he said life in France under President Sarkozy has been difficult. He believes the Socialist Hollande will help illegal immigrants like himself get their working papers in France.

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

But analyst Nicayenzi said Lo will probably see no change. “I saw [Socialist] Mitterrand in 1981, when he was elected Africans danced,” he said. “But when he left, we saw there was no big change between him and Chirac.”

Nicayenzi said Africa must foster its own development.

“Africa must say, ‘We are independent but at the same time dependent. We have been independent for years, at the same time the world is globalizing. All the time, the deep solutions don’t come from France or Hollande, or America or England, Russia or China,” said Nicayenzi.

“They have enormous problems in their own countries,” Nicayenzi added. “Africans must say, ‘We also have enormous problems and it’s firstly for me to find the solutions.’”

Late Sunday, projections estimated that Hollande had won just over 50 percent of the vote, becoming France's first Socialist president in nearly two decades. Shortly after the polls closed, Sarkozy called his challenger to concede defeat.