French President Emmanuel Macron returned from a three-day visit to West Africa on December 1. On his tour, he stressed France’s new posture towards the region and his desire to reset “Francafrique” ties away from colonial vestiges.
During the eventful visit, the highlight was perhaps Macron’s speech at the University of Ouagadougou. In this speech, Macron spoke in favor of moving past the issues of colonialism as neither he nor anyone in the room had been alive when France controlled West Africa.
Instead, he explained that “I’m from a generation that doesn’t tell Africa what to do: I have come to listen.” Afterwards, he argued for a new period of combined African and French efforts to combat common problems such as terrorism and overpopulation and to pursue economic prosperity.
Macron also relayed his intention to make French the world’s most spoken language. Calling upon their shared linguistic heritage, Macron urged the students to see that, “The radiance, the attractiveness of French do not just belong to France.”
Critics have already pointed out that nearly every French president comes to Africa and makes a similar speech about resetting Franco-African relations. More ferocious opponents have called out Macron’s speech as hypocritical because of their belief that the economic, environmental, and humanitarian problems of many African countries are at least partly France’s fault.
Macron’s visit to Burkina Faso, the Cote d’Ivoire, and Ghana comes at an auspicious time, as many of the former French colonies in West Africa are facing political unrest. In fact, French soldiers were attacked with a grenade moments prior to Macron’s arrival.
Whether Macron’s new policies will actually come to fruition is yet to be seen, but it remains clear that many Africans would welcome a change in the status quo.