President Emmanuel Macron of France has embarked on a quest to win favor across Africa on the basis of a policy of “profound humility,” chastened by a decade-long frustrated military intervention and a wave of anti-French sentiment in France’s former African colonies.
In practice, as he outlined in a speech this week, this reset will mean a much-reduced military presence at six bases that will be converted into academies or hubs of new partnerships. He said it would involve “balanced, reciprocal and responsible” relations, respectful of African needs at a time of intense competition for influence and profit across the continent from Russia and China.
“Macron wants to salvage what he can,” said Thierry Vircoulon, a research associate at the French Institute of International Relations. “His first term was a failure, both in terms of the war on terrorism and the attempt to maintain French influence.”
An era is coming to an end. France left its colonies decades ago, but old habits and presumptions about French power and dominance across a swath of Africa have endured, symbolized by a significant military presence and the continued use of the colonial-era C.F.A. franc currency. French nostalgia for the zenith of their geostrategic influence sustained these tendencies.
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