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France and Africa


Chapter 5 offers a bold account that provides solid academic analyses in understanding France’s position on the African continent, defined in the author’s offering of 11 critiques in which he tests France’s position in Africa of either—a realist critique; or a liberal idealist critique; or a pan-Africanist critique; or an anti-imperialist critique; or an “affordable influence” critique; or a postcolonial critique; or a cultural relativist critique; or a progressive political critique; or a “decline-and-fall” or “end-of-empire” critique; or a patriotic defence critique; or an international law critique. Thereby the author provides empirical evidence on France’s “over-stretched” transition between the Françafrique of yesterday and the France-Afrique of tomorrow which is able to assess whether Paris could hold sway.


  • Feminist Political Critique
  • Cultural Relativist Critique
  • Islamic State In Iraq And Syria (ISIS)
  • Foccart
  • Caisse Centrale De Cooperation Economique (CCCE)

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-62590-4_5
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  1. 1.

    Christopher Griffon, “French Military Interventions in Africa”, paper presented at 48th annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Chicago, 28 February 2007. See also Bruno Charbonneau, France and the New Imperialism: Security Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa (London: Routledge, 2016), tab. 4.2, p. 66.

  2. 2.

    “France’s position on peacekeeping and peace support operations [is] fairly clear. Participation in such operations remain[s] a possibility, but only where that participation correspond[s] to French national interests.” Rachel E. Utley, “A Means to Wider Ends? France, Germany, and Peacekeeping”, in Rachel E. Utley (ed.), Major Powers and Peacekeeping: Perspectives, Priorities, and the Challenges of Military Intervention (Abingdon: Routledge, 2006), p. 76.

  3. 3.

    Speaking of the Rwandan genocide: “While the idea that states will seek to prevent and punish genocide is a noble one, the reality is that states are reluctant to take strong preventative measures … out of deference to the norm of state sovereignty.” Debra L. DeLaet, The Global Struggle for Human Rights: Universal Principles in World Politics, 2nd edition (Stamford: Cenage Learning, 2015), p. 97.

  4. 4.

    Speaking of EUFOR/Chad: “Most of the military planning was done in Paris … French special forces … helped the Déby government in its military efforts to defend the capital. This was clear evidence to other EUFOR governments, if any were needed, that they were auxiliaries of Gallic foreign policy.” Adekeye Adebajo, “The EU’s Security Role in Africa”, in Annita Montoute and Kudrat Virk (eds), The ACP Group and the EU Development Partnership: Beyond the North-South Debate (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), p. 224.

  5. 5.

    “France’s active participation in UN peacekeeping operations since the end of the Cold War reflects its view that the United Nations is an important asset to French foreign policy … France views its participation in UN peacekeeping operations, in particular, both as a justification for its permanent seat and as almost an obligation in its quest to assert its influence on the world stage.” Pia Christina Wood, “France”, in David S. Sorenson and Pia Christina Wood (eds), The Politics of Peacekeeping in the Post-Cold War Era (Abingdon: Cass, 2005), pp. 70–1. “In the French engagement in Rwanda one finds most of the essential ingredients of the Franco-African cuisine: irresponsibility of the Elysée, absence of control of the secret services, excessive weight of the military-African lobby, diversion of public aid, corruption, affairism, trafficking, support for clannish and ethnic dictators, the Fashoda syndrome, francophone obsession, among others.” François-Xavier Verschave, Noir Silence: Qui Arrêtera la Françafrique? (Paris: Les Arènes, 2000), p. 178.

  6. 6.

    On “affordable influence” see Alexander Mattelaer and Esther Marijnen, “EU Peacekeeping in Africa: Towards an Indirect Approach”, in Marco Wyss and Thierry Tardy (eds), Peacekeeping in Africa: The Evolving Security Architecture (Abingdon: Routledge, 2014), pp. 54–72.

  7. 7.

    “The most virulent critics,” write Bruno Charbonneau and Tony Chafer, “theorise the ways in which colonial conditions of the past, as well as North-South inequalities, linger on into present international peace intervention practices.” Charbonneau and Chafer, Peace Operations in the Francophone World: Global Governance Meets Post-Colonialism (New York: Routledge, 2014), p. 8. For instance, Stephen Smith’s ironic critique: “France pretends to be interested in Africa but is really only contemplating itself in the mirror of ‘its’ Africa—francophone Africa if not, stricto sensu, its former colonies—to plunge the depths of its soul: ‘Tell me, am I the most beautiful or the most terrible? Am I still a great power, or only a medium one?’” Smith, Voyage en Postcolonie: Le Nouveau Monde Franco-Africain (Paris: Grasset, 2010), p. 38.

  8. 8.

    Critics have emphasised how international peace practices and interventions are often founded upon and reproduce lingering cultural hierarchies of race, class, and gender, and the difference from pre-colonial African ideas of security. “The concept and essence of security in pre-colonial Africa was holistic in nature, interlinking the political, economic, ecological, socio-cultural, and, perhaps most significant, religious-spiritual sphere of social life.” Jamila Jennifer Abubakar, Kenneth Omeje, and Habu Galadima, Conflict of Securities: Reflections on State and Human Security in Africa (London: Adonis and Abbey, 2010), p. 11. For an anthropological perspective on peacekeeping see Robert A. Rubinstein, Peacekeeping Under Fire: Culture and Intervention (New York: Routledge, 2016).

  9. 9.

    “France is aware of what is expected of us. Because of that proximity—a proximity that is simultaneously geographic, sentimental, cultural, linguistic and economic—we have a particular responsibility [to Africa].” François Hollande’s speech at the Elysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa, 6 December 2013,

  10. 10.

    Emblematic of this genre is Antoine Glaser and Stephen Smith, Comment la France a Perdu l’Afrique (Paris: Calmann-Levy, 2005). In a more recent work, Glaser has developed this theme. “Contrary to conventional wisdom, the submission of Africa to postcolonial France is far from corresponding to reality … Far from being puppets or yes-men, African presidents have learned how to manoeuvre and instrumentalise their ‘masters’ in Paris.” Antoine Glaser and Smith, AfricaFrance: Quand les Dirigeants Africains Deviennent les Maîtres du Jeu (Paris: Fayard, 2014), p. 12.

  11. 11.

    “For decades, despite the reality of the world and its threats,” laments General Vincent Desportes of the numerous interventions embarked upon by President François Hollande, “the state has left our armies degraded to the point that they are no longer capable of facing up to the exigencies of security.” Vincent Desportes, La Dernière Bataille de France (Paris: Gallimard, 2015), p. 11.

  12. 12.

    Two deputies in the National Assembly, Noël Mamère and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, placed into doubt the legality of the French intervention in Mali. Delphine Roucaute, “Mali: L’Opération ‘Serval’ Est-Elle Légale?”, Le Monde, 14 January 2012. “From a legal perspective, the French justified their intervention [in Mali] in virtue of UN resolution 2085 and Article 51 of the UN Charter (the principle of legitimate defense). This is ambiguous since the UN allowed the deployment of an African force in Mali.” Isaline Bergamaschi, “French Military Intervention in Mali: Inevitable, Consensual, Yet Insufficient”, Stability: International Journal of Security and Development 2(2) (2013),

  13. 13.

    Glaser and Smith, Comment la France a Perdu l’Afrique), p. 9.

  14. 14.

    Patrick Manning, Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa: 1880–1985 (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1988), p. 3.

  15. 15.

    Mongo Beti, Le Rebelle, vol. II (Paris: Gallimard, 2007), p. 21.

  16. 16.

    Beti, Le Rebelle, vol. I (Paris: Gallimard, 2007), p 102.

  17. 17.

    Beti, Le Rebelle, vol. I, 2007, p. 201.

  18. 18.

    Beti, Le Rebelle, vol. I, 2007, p. 203.

  19. 19.

    Beti, Le Rebelle, vol. II, 2007, p. 44. The reference to “clercs” is to Julian Benda’s 1927 essay La Trahison des Clercs (The Treason of the Intellectuals).

  20. 20.

    Francis Terry McNamara, France in Black Africa (Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, 1989), p. 77.

  21. 21.

    McNamara, France in Black Africa, 1989, p. 80, reported by Thomas Hodgkin and Ruth Schacter, French Speaking West Africa in Transition (New York: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 1960), p. 402.

  22. 22.

    This has not prevented publications by Francophone authors from other countries. See André Dumoulin, La France Militaire et l’Afrique: Coopération et Interventions—Un État des Lieux (Brussels: GRIP, 1997).

  23. 23.

    Grégoire Biyogo, Déconstruire les Accords de Coopération Franco-Africains (Paris: Harmattan, 2011).

  24. 24.

    The primary source about Foccart’s policies is a series of interviews published in the form of quasi-memoir, Foccart Parle: Entretiens avec Philippe Gaillard, two vols. (Paris: Fayard-Jeune Afrique, 1995–97). Recent scholarship has critically addressed these memoirs as self-serving documents, sometimes distorting the truth. See Jean-Pierre Bat, Le Syndrome Foccart: La Politique Française en Afrique, de 1959 à Nos Jours (Paris: Gallimard, 2012). See also Frédéric Turpin, Jacques Foccart: Dans l’Ombre du Pouvoir (Paris: CNRS Editions, 2015).

  25. 25.

    “Africa,” said Louis de Guiringaud, foreign minister, “is the only continent where it is still within the measure of France, within its means, where it can still, with 500 men, change the course of history.” Christian d’Epenoux and Christian Hoche, “Giscard l’Africain”, L’Express, 15 December 1979

  26. 26.

    Jean-François Bayart, La Politique Africaine de François Mitterrand (Paris: Karthala, 1984).

  27. 27.

    Agir-Survie, Jacques Chirac et la Françafrique: Retour à la Case Foccart? (Paris: Harmattan, 1995).

  28. 28.

    Samuël Foutoyet, Nicolas Sarkozy ou la Françafrique Décomplexée (Paris: Tribord, 2009).

  29. 29.

    Christopher Boisbouvier, Hollande l’Africain (Paris: La Découverte, 2015).

  30. 30.

    “Graphic: Overseas Development Assistance (ODA)”, “French Foreign Policy”, 2017,

  31. 31.

    Favourable decisions by the Paris Club are conditional upon acceptance of the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

  32. 32.

    Judith Rueff, “Tableau Noir”, Libération, 3 December 2004.

  33. 33.

    Guy Penne, André Dulait, and Paulette Brisepierre, “La Réforme de la Coopération”, Rapport d’Information no. 46 (2001–02), French Senate, Foreign Affairs Commission, 30 October 2001.

  34. 34.

    See David Stasavage, The Political Economy of a Common Currency: The CFA Franc Zone Since 1945 (Farnham: Ashgate, 2003). See also Anne Marie Gulde and Charalambos G. Tsangarides, The CFA Franc Zone: Common Currency, Uncommon Challenges (Washington, D.C.: International Monetary Fund, 2008).

  35. 35.

    Ndongo Samba Sylla, “The CFA Franc: French Monetary Imperialism in Africa”, Review of African Political Economy (May 2017),

  36. 36.

    Charles F. Darlington and Alice B. Darlington, African Betrayal (New York: David McCay, 1968), p. 112.

  37. 37.

    Darlington and Darlington, African Betrayal, 1968.

  38. 38.

    Nicolas Agbohou, Le Franc CFA et l’Euro Contre l’Afrique (Paris: Edition Solidarité Mondiale, 1999).

  39. 39.

    Joan Edelman Spero, “Dominance-Dependence Relationships: The Case of France and Gabon” (PhD dissertation, Columbia University, 1973), p. 231.

  40. 40.

    Spero, “Dominance-Dependence Relationships”, p. 231.

  41. 41.

    Douglas A. Yates, “L’Aide au Développement International: Réformes en France, Grande-Bretagne et Etats-Unis”, Revue Française de Géoéconomie no. 12 (Winter 1999–2000), p. 151.

  42. 42.

    Glaser, AfricaFrance, p. 209.

  43. 43.

    Raphaël Granvaud, Areva en Afrique (Paris: Agone, 2015); Dominique Lorentz, Affaires Atomiques (Paris: Les Arènes, 2001); Dominique Lorentz, Une Guerre (Paris: Les Arènes, 1997).

  44. 44.

    Douglas A. Yates, The French Oil Industry and the Corps des Mines in Africa (Trenton/Asmara: Africa World Press, 2009).

  45. 45.

    Glaser, AfricaFrance, p. 215.

  46. 46.

    Douglas A. Yates, “France’s Elf Scandals”, in Gerald E. Caiden, O.P. Dwivedi, and Joseph Jabbra (eds), Where Corruption Lives (Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian, 2001); Eva Joly, Est-ce dans ce Monde-là que Nous Voulons Vivre? (Paris: Arènes, 2004); Nicholas Shaxson, Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil (New York: St. Martin’s, 2007), Chap. 5.

  47. 47.

    These Dossiers Noirs come out of an initial collaboration between the anti-corruption NGO Survie, and Oxfam France-Agir, which lead campaigns that attempt to push French African policy towards democracy. Twenty-two dossiers have exposed corrupt mechanisms and denounce scandalous drifting from the proper course by government officials and clandestine networks. See

  48. 48.

    François-Xavier Verschave, La Françafrique: Le Plus Long Scandale de la République (Paris: Stock, 1998).

  49. 49.

    “At the beginning of 1994 I coined the term ‘Françafrique’ to describe the tip of the iceberg that is Franco-African relations, and went on to develop this concept in approximately twenty books and special reports. Here, briefly, I shall explain what the term refers to: the secret criminality in the upper echelons of French politics and economy, where a kind of underground Republic is hidden from view.” François-Xavier Verschave, “Defining Françafrique”, 18 February 2006,

  50. 50.

    Verschave, “Defining Françafrique”, 2006.

  51. 51.

    Libération, 18 September 1996.

  52. 52.

    Philippe Marchesin, “Mitterrand l’Africain”, Politique Africaine no. 58 (June 1995), p. 8.

  53. 53.

    Ian Taylor, The International Relations of Sub-Saharan Africa (London: Continuum International, 2010), p. 66.

  54. 54.

    Cf. Tom Masland, “African Duel”, Newsweek (30 March 1998), p. 19.

  55. 55.

    David Revault d’Allonnes, Les Guerres du Président (Paris: Seuil, 2016), p. 34.

  56. 56.

    Agence France Presse, “François Hollande à Bamako: ‘Nous Serons à Vos Côtés’”, Le Monde, 2 May 2013.

  57. 57.

    Revault d’Allonnes, Les Guerres du Président, p. 50.

  58. 58.

    Michael Shurkin, France’s War in Mali: Lessons for an Expeditionary Army (Santa Monica: Rand, 2014), p. xi.

  59. 59.

    Vincent Nouzille, Les Tueurs de la République: Assassinats et Opérations Spéciales des Services Secrets (Paris: Fayard, 2015).

  60. 60.

    “France at War: ‘Aux Armes’”, The Economist (5 May 2016), p. 20,

  61. 61.

    Martial Foucault, “Les Budgets de Défense en France, Entre Déni et Déclin”, Institut Française des Relations Internationales (IFRI), Focus Stratégique no. 36 (April 2012).

  62. 62.

    Général Vincent Desportes, La Dernière Bataille de France: Lettre au Français Qui Croient Encore Être Défendus (Paris: Gallimard, 2015), p. 11.

  63. 63.

    Desportes, La Dernière Bataille de France: Lettre au Français qui croient encore être défendus, 2015, p. 27.

  64. 64.

    Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (New York: Vintage, 1987).

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Yates, D.A. (2018). France and Africa. In: Nagar, D., Mutasa, C. (eds) Africa and the World. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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