The relationship between France and Africa has been one that Africans have repeatedly questioned and many times condemned as being exploitative, maintaining colonial interests. Despite these condemnations, France did little to nothing to change its policies on its former colonies. Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, recently condemned France’s policy in Africa saying, “If we have people who are leaving Africa now it’s because some European countries, and France in particular, have never stopped colonizing Africa.”Di Maio said France’s policies in Africa are causing people to migrate from the continent, a comment which angered Paris.
While the statement by Maio isn’t new, the reaction of France has been sharp and swift, with Paris summoning the Italian envoy to protest about comments made by Italian Deputy Prime Minister. On January 6, 2011 an interview titled The Servitude of the Colonial Pact shed light on the “economic devastation caused to the African member states of the French Community of Africa (CFA).” Professor Mamadou Koulibaly, a professor of economics explained the CFA franc region as “a state controlled zone of cooperation with, interestingly, the levers of control based in Paris, from where the priority is the interests of France.”
Commenting on the relationship between France and its former African colonies, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister further stated, “If France didn’t have its African colonies, because that’s what they should be called, it would be the 15th largest world economy. Instead it’s among the first, exactly because of what it is doing in Africa.” While past French presidents have tacitly or directly made similar statements, there has been a continuation of that exploitation which has had adverse economic effects on France’s former colonies. In March 2008, former French President Jacques Chirac said, “without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third [world] power.” In 1957, Francois Mitterand, a former French president similarly said, “Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century.”
France perfected neo-colonialism by destroying the countries that wanted independence. In 1958, when Guinea demanded for independence from French colonial rule, the French left the country and in their wake killed animals, burnt schools and hospitals and what they called benefits of colonialism. The assassination of Togo’s Sylvanus Olympio who wanted an independent Togo is evidence of France’s continued policy with its former colonies, an art France perfected.
Maio said, “France is one of those countries that by printing money for 14 African states prevents their economic development and contributes to the fact that the refugees leave and then die in the sea or arrive on our coasts. I have stopped being a hypocrite talking only about the effects of immigration and it’s time to talk about the causes. The EU should sanction all those countries like France that are impoverishing African countries and are causing those people to leave.”
While France has been identified as a root cause of the problems in Francophone Africa, the major question remains, what can the African Union, the presidents of these francophone countries and the general people do? According to Prof Mamadou, “Our countries prefer to take things easy even if that means endangering employment, revenues, savings and private investments. We are, in fact, accomplices to the poverty trap in which we find ourselves.”