by Serah Makka & Najat Vallaud-Belkacem
After the withdrawal of French forces from Mali and more recently from Burkina Faso and responding to the – rightly – growing demands of his Sahelian and sub-Saharan allies, President Macron has called for a new relationship with Africa. This partnership would be a more “balanced, reciprocal and responsible”. The image of France on the African continent is in decline, particularly among its youth who form more than 60% of the continent’s population. Beyond military issues on their continent, young Africans are right to be frustrated at the way France has recently raised the registration fees for foreign students or how differently the Hexagon has welcomed Ukrainian refugees compared to their compatriots’ fleeing wars and life-threatening situations. It is therefore in a climate of growing mistrust that Emmanuel Macron began his 18th trip to Africa since his first election.
Africa is calling for an equal partnership of mutual respect. A partnership of mutual benefit where both partners are satisfied with the outcomes and benefits of their relationship. While President Macron has detailed the renewal of his military strategy, beginning a new, more modest era for French troops in Africa, he paid relatively little attention to the economic, cultural, social, health and ecological aspects. These are areas that France and Africa must write and perhaps re-write together.
To truly achieve this new partnership of equals, France must above all base this renewed relationship on trade and investment that are more efficient, more transparent and more in line with African priorities. For these priorities to be fully heard, Paris must above all continue to support Africa’s access to the negotiating table on the international scene, starting with the integration of the African Union into the G20, in the same way as the European Union.
To truly speak on an equal footing, France must also demand for greater transparency in the methodologies applied by the rating agencies to the debts of African countries, in order to put an end to the double standard in force on the perception of risks that put developing countries at a major disadvantage.
Rebalancing the distribution of available resources to deal with the climate, health and economic crises that know no borders, Emmanuel Macron must also support the inevitable reforms of the multilateral development banks, which could lend up to 1,000 billion dollars additional resources to low- and middle-income countries.
And to remain a credible interlocutor on an increasingly competitive international scene, France must begin by finally achieving the historic commitment of allocating 0.7% of its gross national income to development aid, which will be added to domestic resources and other development finance needed to support essential social sectors such as education or health.
Africa has solutions to the world’s climate needs through its green minerals. However, we must ensure that value is added to the minerals before they are exported out of Africa, for the people in Africa to also benefit from the product of its own soil.
In the end, Africa has always wanted to be considered as a true partner on the economic level as well as on that of the principles and values it defends. The time lost by France in turning a deaf ear can now only be made up for by a radical change of method. Africa does not expect France to solve all its problems for it. But Africa expects France to keep its commitments and to promote more equitable rules of the game of globalization so that Africa and France benefits.
Serah Makka is an Executive Director, ONE in Africa & Najat Vallaud-Belkacem is a Director, ONE in France