OPINION- A former banker and economy minister, President Emmanuel Macron is now at the head of En Marche, a manifesto turned into a political start-up, launched barely a year ago. En Marche promotes a technocratic perspective and is marketed by a handful of French brains of African descent moulded into the country’s elite universities.
For many, Macron’s recurring contradictory statements suggest a desire to appeal to everyone, while hiding his true colours and concealing the obvious – that he has no policy for Africa.
Beyond the spellbinding eloquence that coined slogans such as “France needs Africa to build its future,” or “I will act with transparency in Africa, away from conniving networks,” Macron’s vision for Africa is reduced to the thinness of “supporting local small and medium entrepreneurship.”
Macron must have missed the memo, for “African SMEs need an integrated banking system rather than a French president who has not secured the Senate control” argued Mamadou Diallo, the political analyst and member of the West African think-tank WATHI. For Diallo “The Macron campaign’s loudest feat was in using the colonial question and the crime against humanity committed in Algeria”, only for it to be reduced to a storm in a teacup. “The colonial debate appeal to voters of the African diaspora for it gives them an emotional acknowledgment in lieu of a real economic recognition. A father of four in Kinshasa couldn’t care less about a moral recognition of colonialism. He wants to know how to pay for his children school fees,” further clarifies the Guinean analyst.
There is a palpable fear that Macron’s presidency is a continuation of Hollande’s, who had voted for him during the first round. Using the historical representations of colonialism and slavery has undeniably set Macron apart from other candidates. However, his lauded anti-colonial statement quickly tempered by “but one has to assume its positive elements” brought Gaddafi’s ghost back in the conversation.
Africans have not forgotten the savage pulverisation that former French president Sarkozy inflicted upon the Libyan people. How can it be omitted that Macron has inherited from the horrific Mali military invasion? Did Africa really need France’s intervention if it meant that the mediator would become a party to the conflict? En Marche only reaffirmed France’s militaristic endorsement of European, EU and NATO’s interference to protect their interests, all of which can only signal more wahala for the African continent.
Macron’s key job is to redress French prosperity by facilitating the movement of entrepreneurs and researchers, in other words, the movement of capital, a large percentage of it originating from Africa and through a wheeler-dealer diplomacy that in Macron’s own words is also “erratic”.
With Africa’s trade balance growing eastwards and inwards, how would a former banker restore France’s relations with Africa at a time when a viral grassroots campaign for the abolition of the CFA (French African Colony) money is raging in fourteen countries? After all, why do 22-year-old graduates on the Quai d’Orsay payroll staff presidential entourages of the CFA countries afflicted by brain drain and youth unemployment? Surely Macron would concede that liberating fourteen countries from the bondage of pumping France’s economy up would appear to be a sensible step towards fair reparations for the crime against humanity that colonialism is. The trouble is that pegged to the French treasury, the abolition of the CFA currency would in a blink bring Molière’s country on its knees.
As for En Marche’s views on integration and immigration, put it simply, they are two sides of the same coin, that of racism and exclusion which carry significant economic costs. For a country in dire need to repopulate to keep the state apparel afloat, France holds a distorted discourse by single-handedly targeting its populations of Afro-descendents. France’s migrant population accounts for a mere ten percent of the population, a third of which is made of international students integrated into the relatively lifeless economy. Why else would 2.5 million of French citizen not racially profiled choose to live outside of France?
Actually, integration and immigration are coded words for Europe’s all time greatest fear dating back to eight centuries of an Afro-Moorish rule: Islam with its political, cultural and security translation. Again, in the European conflicted representation, Islam is no longer located in the Arab-Muslim heart but in the Arab-Turkish-Persian world. But most of the illegal migrants into Europe do not originate from the Syrian conflict or the Afghan convulsions, but from supra-Saharan or sub-Saharan African countries not at war and with a sizeable Muslim population.
“What we’re seeing across Europe is that domestic politicians – whether in Germany, France, or even Greece – are increasingly asking the EU to do their dirty work” cautions Loren Landau, the Chair of the African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Hence Macron’s a continuation of Europe’s forked tongue discourse. “It allows them to show that politicians are doing something about stopping Africans from coming, without themselves being implicated in the nefarious deals the EU is promoting” added Landau.
It is high time Africa cures her post-colonial syndrome and stops giving a disproportionate importance to the French political game, according to the Cameroonian political scientist Achille Mbembe.
All things considered, could it be agreed that France’s views on Africa are of no interest to Africans? Africa matters more to France’s seventy million than the other way around, if only because Africa hosts two hundred million French speakers, or a fifth of its billion population.
Yoletta Nyange is a Visiting Scholar at the African Centre for Migration and Society of the University of the Witwatersrand.
Follow her on Twitter @yolettanyange