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France

French Press Review 29 November 2017

media

The end of FranceAfrique? That's the top story in France this morning. Though not all the papers are convinced.

Like us - many of today's French papers are leading with President Emmanuel Macron's speech signalling change in France's relationship with Africa.

The thrust of what he had to say - France will no longer tell Africans what to do. Africans must take control of their own destiny.

As you'll know - in the 19th century France colonised much of north and west Africa.

Wars of liberation in some countries and peaceful decolonisation others in the 1950s and 60s saw the end of the French Empire in Africa - formally at least.

In truth - the French never left - continuing to influence events - intervening militarily, installing and toppling leaders - profiting from the region's natural resources and keeping a tight grip on the only part of the world that is largely Francophone and where France has meaningful influence.

It's called FranceAfique - for obvious reasons - and there is a heap of dirty linen in the cupboard.

Thus - Macron's speech in Ouagadougou - capital of Burkina Faso - is Big Big news here in France.

The front page headline in la Depeche is - Africa - Macron turns the page.

Libération goes with - Africa - Macron's version.

The paper devotes yards of text to the story - highlighting Macron's pledge that "There is no more African policy in France,."

Macron recalled that he was from a generation "who never knew Africa as a colonised continent" in his speech to 800 students "who did not know that either".

Le Figaro declares that Macron wants Europe to be more engaged in Africa.

It's editorial is headlined EuraAfrica - and suggests the move is a generational shift - young voices such as Macron replacing the old crocodiles of years gone by. Though it warns that we're heard fine declarations like this before - notably from Nicolas Sarkozy when he was President.

Macron's view is that the rest of Europe is insufficiently engaged in Africa. Worse - it is pusillanimous - that's to say cowardly, chickenhearted.

Not least given the dangers posed by militant Islamists, mass emigration towards Europe and climate change.

France has taken the lead in confronting these problems and Paris is willing to fill the role of coordinator and intermediary between the two continents, Macron says. But Europe as a whole must do mo

Le Figaro is not entirely convinced that much can change.

Two things dominate the relationship between France and Africa : economics and the military.

Economic ties are long standing. And - military involvement is a response to the actual situation on the ground.

The popular daily - le Parisien - says the real fireworks came in the Q +A session that followed Macron's speech.

With what it calls outspokenness, sometimes brutal, he delivered a real lesson to his audience.

Macron urged the students to depart from the legacy of the past, inviting them to seize their destiny, even if it involved a distancing from.

"The solution will not come from outside," he warned "You are doomed to succeed."

I'm not sure I understand the "doomed to succeed."

When a student asks him about electrification, the President replied - "You speak to me as if I were a colonial power! I do not want to deal with electricity in Burkina Faso universities. It's the job of your President"

Communist daily L'Humanité is more cynical - calling it "the new mask of FranceAfrique".

The paper accuses the French President of alternating between what it calls "praise and provocation."

It reports that - at the end of his Marathon speech - 2 hours and 45 minutes - students in the audience repeatedly complained about French imperialism.

His abrupt response was  "the only thing you owe to the French soldiers is to applaud them", adding that "young French people risk their lives to protect your country against jihadists.

Africans will not be able to move forward if they continue to blame France for all their problems, Macron told them.

The Catholic daily - La Croix calls it "the gamble of youth". Like Macron - who is 39 - the majority of Africans are young. And, perhaps, singing from the same hymn sheet.

Le Monde - bless it's little cotton socks - published in the afternoon - misses the story - though doubtless it will catch up later today.

 
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