Macron and Africa: disrupted ambitions

By Philip Bernard

Posted yesterday at 2:34 a.m., updated yesterday at 12:33 p.m.

Emmanuel Macron at the University of Ouagadougou, in 2017.

Tumultuous, overheated, the great amphitheater of the Joseph-Ki-Zerbo University in Ouagadougou is on the verge of eruption, and the French president must raise his voice to be heard. Listen to the questions, friends! » he begs. Six months after entering the Elysee Palace, Emmanuel Macron embarked on an unprecedented exercise in the annals of presidential trips to Africa: an unfiltered and taboo-free dialogue with “African youth”, embodied, on November 28, 2017, by eight hundred Burkinabe students. Colonization, CFA franc, immigration, demography… Their questions do not evade any subject. Neither does the president. Oscillating between your professorial tone and joking, he seems to be in heaven, despite, or perhaps because of, the swell his answers cause.

Read also Colonization, Francophonie… The highlights of Macron’s speech in Ouagadougou

Alone at the podium, he foreshadows a five-year term that wants to inaugurate a “new partnership” marked by a desire for direct and “uninhibited” dialogue with civil societies, bypassing leaders if necessary. Sitting below, the then President of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, attends the session as a simple spectator. Humiliated by a spade from the French president, he even slips away for a moment. “So he’s leaving! » loose Mr. Macron with disrespect.

The incident contrasts with the message of this “Ouaga speech”: no more lessons given to Africa, “There is no more African policy for France! », assures the French president, to signify his desire to break with the postcolonial vision and to trivialize relations with the continent. Emmanuel Macron displays a contradiction that will not leave him: he claims to speak as equals with Africans without being able to curb outbursts of condescension, even authoritarianism. In Ouagadougou, he also speaks a rhetoric that will be recurrent: he is young and therefore foreign to colonization whose crimes, he insists, are “indisputable” and are part of our history “. Hence the freedom and frankness he claims to address the “annoying subjects” and build another relationship with a continent “central, global, essential” whose successes and failures, he is convinced, dictate the future of the planet.

President Macron’s African equation, revealed by his show in Ouagadougou, does not resemble that of his predecessors. It is neither marked by the heritage of Gaullist networks as for Jacques Chirac or Nicolas Sarkozy, nor by a relative ignorance as for François Hollande, but seems to proceed both from chance and from successive choices. As a child of the 1980s, he insists on his belonging to “a generation that grew up with young people from this diaspora [africaine en France] » (during an interview with Antoine Glaser and Pascal Airault in Macron’s African TrapFayard, 2021) to explain his belief that “Africa is engraved in the identity of France” and that French people of African origin have an eminent role to play in the image of France in Africa and in the development of this continent.

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