By Corentin Cohen, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 02, 2022

While Macron’s pivot has created new political space for France-Africa engagement on more equal footing, the French president’s vision of mutual aid and reciprocal partnerships between France and African countries remains unfulfilled.


During his first term, French President Emmanuel Macron sought to revitalize his country’s diplomatic outreach to countries throughout Africa. Some aspects of this pivot were designed to more directly address the legacy of French colonialism in Francophone countries. He also sensed that the growing stature of non-Western powers like China has given African counterparts greater latitude to pursue ties amid heightened diplomatic competition among a host of other countries both in Europe and elsewhere. In pursuing this strategy, Macron has sought to promote a vision of French diplomacy with Africa through greater foreign aid and more robust people-to-people ties grounded in a spirit of partnerships between equals.

While Macron’s efforts have created an opening for renewed relationships, this pivot has not been as seamless as he had hoped. Bureaucratic inertia and stovepiping in French foreign policy circles have at times meant that implementation of these policies has lagged. In certain cases, Macron’s own nationalistic appeals during his recent reelection bid have appeared to undercut his attempts to make amends for France’s troubling colonial history. Meanwhile the French president’s attempts to deepen economic, people-to-people, and security ties in more equitable ways have fallen short of lofty expectations, with past practices proving harder than expected to jettison. For Macron’s ambitions for French relations with African countries to keep their momentum, the president and his team must take an earnest look at what has worked well and what can still be improved.

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