As France goes to the ballot box today to choose between 39-year old centrist Emmanuel Macron of En Marche and France's potential first female leader, Marine Le Pen of the far -right Le Front National, how will the outcome affect France's relationship with L'Afrique?
Le French Connection
Cultural, historic, social, security and economic ties are just some of the key ways in which Franco-African relations continue to be bound together. In an interview with Le Monde, Macron emphasised the importance of African-French relations, underscoring that some 10% of the French population has African origins and that 300,000 French citizens live in France1. His acknowledgement of the importance of this relationship was pronounced in his campaign strategy on the continent, which included a visit to Algeria and the setting up of representative offices in around 15 African countries, both Francophone and non-Francophone. These included DRC, Kenya, Cote d'Ivoire and South Africa among others2. Le Pen also visited the continent during her campaigns, choosing to visit French troops fighting radical Islamic groupings in Chad3.
While France's dominance in Africa may have been dismantled at one level through decolonisation, the 'Francafrique' notion - which describes the influence that France exerts over its former African colonies through an intricate web of personal ties with the elites -still persists. Guinea's president Alpha Conde once said "We are still closely associated with former colonial power. Let's cut the umbilical cord4".
When it comes to discussing historical ties, Le Pen told Le Monde in an interview that France has nothing to apologise for in relation to its colonial past. Indeed, it was this sort of attitude which led to the plummeting of former president Nicholas Sarkozy's likeability factor during a visit to Senegal back in 20075. Macron's message has been mixed, on the one hand saying on a campaign visit to Algeria that "We must face up to this part of our history and apologize to those who were at the receiving end," but then on the other saying that he does not subscribe to 'repentance' but at the same time does not wish to erase history6, arguably a volte face following pressure back at home.
In terms of trade and investment, the two currency unions that France has on the continent through the Central African Economic Monetary Community (CEMAC) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) will be in doubt if Le Pen...