Name? Emmanuel Macron
Westphalian identity? French
Why is he in the news? French President Emmanuel Macron recently held a summit for African youth in France. At the event, Macron took questions from a panel who criticized him and Paris’ involvement in Africa in front of 3000 influential people, one social entrepreneur telling Macron to “stop reinforcing the power of African dictators”.
Why do we care? Unlike Macron’s previous visit to French Polynesia, this summit was more symbolic. France currently finds itself at odds with much of Western Africa, namely for their involvement in the Malian Sahel. Even though Macron vows to “recognise [the] responsibility [of colonialism] and bear it”, this of course, does not mean material reparations nor any formal apology.
Why should you care? Macron pledged to change the name of the ‘French Agency of Development’, which is seen as demoralizing to many Africans, and promised to invest 30 million euros over the next three years. He also promised to release information of the assassination of Thomas Sankara, a former President of Burkina Faso and return stolen artifacts from Benin. Due to these symbolic promises made by Macron, you should care 2/10 of this summit’s potential to improve French-African relations.
Who else cares? Assimi Goïta, transitional President of Mali, expressed his criticism of Macron’s intentions in Mali. Goïta described French intervention as “neocolonial” and expressed his preference to mercenaries, such as the Russian Wagner Group, rather than “enemies veiled as friends”. Although the two countries’ relationship was never particularly bad, it worsened after France backtracked out of Mali following the military coup that put Goïta in power.
Any further comments? This summit is the first of many that Macron wants to set up in order to improve relations with France’s ex-colonies. Though with France’s election coming up in 2022, Macron’s victory would secure a more diplomatic France; the right-wing would likely not be as open to addressing (even symbolically) France’s colonial past.