With French President Emmanuel Macron embarking on a diplomatic trip to Africa this week, there is widespread scepticism about his true intentions. Is he truly interested in the humanitarian issues in the continent, or merely seeking to increase French influence over their former colonies?
Sputnik spoke with Gino Raymond, Professor of French Studies at the University Of Bristol for more insight on the issue.
Sputnik: What is Macron looking to achieve diplomatically on his Africa visit? Is he likely to face any criticism?
Gino Raymond: The relationship between France and Africa is fraught with post-colonial tensions and there’s bound to be a residual cynicism with regards to what his motivations are. It’s part of a broader enterprise by Macron to transform France into a major player on the international scene. He’s done it in Europe and now he wants to do it in Africa.
There will also be a summit of the Sahel 5, which will address the issues faced by countries with Islamic insurgencies, so France has created a task force that aims to tackle this problem. Africans are interested in cooperation with France, but cynicism does remain.
Sputnik: Which other countries are competing with France in Africa?
Gino Raymond: China has been spending huge sums of money and professing solidarity with the Africa people. The French have cultivated a cultural dimension of soft power and has played on this.
Macron himself has tried to portray this by arguing that the French language is an African language, trying to break away from colonial ideas.
Sputnik: Do you believe that the French language could overtake English in terms of global importance?
Gino Raymond: Investment is important and France has paid for a lot of bursaries for African students to come and study in France. This has created elite in Africa, which is proud of its ability to speak the language.
There’s also an economic reality that the language of business is English, despite what Macron says. The population of Africa is exploding, but that has to be balanced against the reality that the language of business is English.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Gino Raymond and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik’s position.