African Arguments – Richard Dowden

Africa – except as an immigration issue – is unlikely to feature prominently in the forthcoming French Presidential election.  But the continent remains a vital part of French politics. From independence Africa was the buttress for France’s claim to be a global leader. French Africa policy was conducted by the presidency. Like a parallel government, teams directly responsible to the president ran foreign, defence, finance and aid ministries for Francophone Africa, separate from the normal government ministries.

Sarkozy and Cote d'Ivoire's Ouattara

From the early days of independence many people said that France had been a more successful decoloniser than Britain because Francophone countries were more stable and prosperous. The fact was that France had never left. Behind every minister’s door would be a French official paid for by France making sure that the minister knew what he was supposed to be doing. And near every presidential palace would be a garrison of French soldiers or legionaires in case a mob (or the country’s own soldiers) decided to cause trouble. The currencies of the former French colonies were linked to and supported by the French franc and then the Euro. French companies treated Africa’s resources as their own and French presidents could summon votes at the UN with a simple phone call.  Read more…