France Shifts Gear with ‘New Deal’ with Africa

On Monday 27 February 2023, French President Emmanuel Macron presented his new vision of the tumultuous Africa-France relationship at the Elysee Palace in Paris. The unveiling of the new strategy for Africa-France ties comes right before Macron sets off on his 18th African tour during his presidency.

From 1 to 5 March 2023, Macron plans to visit Gabon, Angola, Congo-Brazzaville and Congo-Kinshasa. He will be accompanied by a strong delegation of French businessmen eager to seal news deals with Africans.

Put succinctly, the new strategy calls for “less military and more business.” For instance, French military has pulled out of Mali, Burkina Faso and Central African Republic. The Barkhane military operation also did not produce the expected outcome.

“Africa is not the preserve of any one country and much less a continent where France, or the EU for that matter, can dictate a certain development model. Rather, Africa is a space where we can build equitable, respectful and responsible relationships in order to find solutions to common challenges such as Climate Change, work on common issues and set up Africa for success. “

French President Emmanuel Macron

President Macron conceded that France’s ‘sphere of influence’ in Africa is diminishing. In line with the new policy to reduce its military presence in Africa, certain military bases will be transformed into military academies while others will become jointly operated bases with stronger local participation.

As a sign of this new model of partnership, President Macron reiterated his willingness to restitute more cultural artefacts back to Africa museums. A new legal framework is being drafted to formalize the procedure. He also believes that France and Africa can reinforce cooperation in the fields of culture and sports.

Under the Choose Africa program, some EUR 3 billion were provided from 2019 to 2022 to support African entrepreneurship to promote #digitalization, agriculture and so on. In light of the success, France is envisaging the Choose Africa II, along with Meet Africa and Digital Africa.

Put another way, the new partnership will call for ‘a shift from an aid logic to an investment logic.’ Macron pointed out that he does not wish to fall into ‘the trap of superpower rivalry’ in Africa. Nevertheless, he did highlight the EU #GlobalGateway as a possible better deal. Finally, Macron also announced another edition of the Africa-France Summit based on the ‘new partnership’ along with India which is scheduled to open in Paris on 23 June 2023.