The declining influence of France in Africa

France’s colonial history in Africa has left a longstanding impact on its relationship with the continent. President Emmanuel Macron has been trying to distance himself from the old days of post-colonialism, advocating for “democratisation”, “empowerment”, “co-operation”, and “engagement with the young”. However, recent coups in four Francophone states have highlighted the crumbling of French policy in Africa. Despite French claims of ending the era of autocratic support and political corruption, allegations of nefarious pressures and sweeteners between French and francophone capitals still persist. The case of Gabon, where President Ali Bongo attempted to withdraw from France’s influence by joining the Commonwealth, questions the extent of French reach. Additionally, the presence of Cameroon’s leader attending the Franco-Russian summit in St. Petersburg raises further doubts about the effectiveness of French influence in the region. Journalist Amaury Coutansais argues that France is experiencing a “historical anachronism” as African presidents increasingly engage with other global powers. While opposition groups may still view France as all-powerful, the reality is that its rivals are securing lucrative contracts and expanding their presence in Africa. This shift in power dynamics has led to a backlash against France, with growing calls for independence and a deeper examination of the past. President Macron, however, blames the recent coups on an “alliance between self-proclaimed pan-Africans and neo-imperialists”, referring to China and Russia. He argues that France’s presence in the Sahel region is solely to combat terrorism and was requested by sovereign states. Yet, many are skeptical of this narrative and instead prefer conspiracy theories. The declining influence of France in Africa raises important questions about the future of Franco-African relations and the impact of external powers seeking to expand their influence in the region.