More than thirty African heads of state are gathering in the Malian capital Bamako for the 27th Africa-France summit. This will be the last such encounter for French president Francois Hollande before he leaves office following elections in April.
Hollande will look to leave the summit on Saturday feeling that he has received a commendation for his work on the continent during his five years in office, unfortunately this is unlikely to happen. His intervention in Mali did eventually lead to a tentative ceasefire but terrorist attacks and raids and the substantive disagreements remain unsolved. The recent decision that there would be no charges brought against French peacekeepers accused of sexual assault of children in CAR has incensed many. Despite France withdrawing most of their troops in October, violence continues. Hollande’s decision to stay relatively quiet on the recent unrest in DRC may have been influenced by these experiences. On a more positive note, France actually surpassed its promise to invest at least €12billion on the continent in the four-year period beginning in 2013.
Although the bonds of the former colonial power still hold tight across the continent, their influence in many sectors is diminishing. Austerity means that official support to SSA is stagnating and four decades after independence, many emerging leaders are beginning to question France’s continued political influence.
Looking ahead – if one of the candidates to the right of the political divide (Marine le Pen of the Front National or Francois Fillon of Les Republicaines) emerge victorious, as appears likely, there is likely to be an emphasis on (a) economic/commercial ties with the region that would boost French industry (b) efforts to curb official assistance to and immigration from Africa.
Written by Accra-based analyst Kobi Annan with input from Managing Partner Nana Adu Ampofo
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