Dec 6th, 2017, 05:46 PM

Macron's Trip to Africa

By Lily Radziemski
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso: French president Emmanuel Macron delivering his African policy speech at the university, in front of Burkinabe students. Image Credit: Shutterstock/Guillame Destombes
Macron traveled to Africa in hopes of reconstructing Franco-African relations —but will he succeed?

French President Macron traveled to Africa with the objective of beginning to repair Franco-African relations. After decades of colonialism in Africa left many with a sense of hostility towards the French, Macron declared “I am of a generation that doesn't tell Africans what to do” midst his arrival in Burkina Faso, setting the tone for his mission of the trip.

Perhaps Macron is enthusiastic about repairing Franco-African relations. However, he has a long way to go before the past is erased: upon arriving in Burkina Faso (his first destination), French soldiers faced a grenade attack and stones were thrown at a convoy. Teargas was used by police against the protesters, who carried slogans reading “Down with new-colonialism.” Notably, these protesters have primarily comprised of youth; a direct contrast to Macron’s platform as the ‘president of the young.’

Macron did not receive the welcome that he wanted. However, he continued on his trip; first, he addressed students from the University of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, stressing that his generation wants to build partnerships with the continent, rather than telling it what to do.


Macron meeting with French troops. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Thaopankto

After visiting a second location in Burkina Faso—La centrale solaire de Zagtouli—Macron headed to the African Union – European Union Summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The summit, which united leaders from both AU and EU countries, sought to define priorities for partnerships in four strategic areas: economic opportunities for youth, peace and security, mobility and migration, and cooperation on governance. Notably, ‘development’ is absent; this coincides with Macron’s declaration that it’s time to shift away from humanitarian relations with Africa and move towards partnerships and economic developments.

Macron finished his trip in Accra, Ghana, as the first French President to visit the country. By meeting with young entrepreneurs and athletes, Macron solidified his intent of creating new relations with Africa extending beyond solely francophone countries.
 


Macron meeting with Ghana President Nana Akufo-AddoImage November 30, 2017.  Credit: Wikimedia Commons / EU2017EE

Despite the apprehensive reactions of his trip, particularly in Burkina Faso, Macron saw his popularity in France rise upon return. Now, at over 50%, his approval is the highest since the time that he was elected in May.

Although Macron’s trip has been met with success in France, the question of a colonial history and France ‘telling Africa what to do’ still remains. Macron is still claiming control of the direction of Franco-African relations, and the reaction of his arrival in Burkina Faso is proof that this is not necessarily what the entirety of Africa wants. Additionally, as the youngest president that France has ever seen—held up by a pedestal of youth voters—it is interesting to compare his vision of ‘the next generation’ as opposed to those of the African youth. In Africa, he is just a French president; will his image of the ‘president of the youth’ ever spread beyond France?