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Map showing French colonies (in blue) in Africa in 1930; viz. French Equatorial Africa, French North Africa, French Somaliland and French West Africa. Along with former Belgian colonies (shown in yellow), these areas today make up the bulk of francophone Africa.
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Françafrique (French pronunciation: ​[fʁɑ̃safʁik]) is France's relationship with its former African colonies.[1][2] It was first used in a positive sense by President Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Côte d'Ivoire, in allusion to that country's economic growth and political stability under its alliance with France. However, the term is now often used to criticise the allegedly neocolonial relationship France has with its former colonies in Africa. Since the independence of African states in 1960, France has intervened militarily more than 30 times in the continent.[3] France has military bases in Gabon,[4] Senegal[5] and Djibouti,[6] as well as in its overseas departments of Mayotte and Réunion in the Indian Ocean.[7] The French Army is also deployed in Mali,[8] Chad,[9] Central African Republic,[10] Somalia[11] and Ivory Coast.[12] Françafrique was at its height from 1960 to 1989,[13] and there is an ongoing dispute as to whether or not it still exists.[14][15][16] In 2012 and 2013, some news outlets spoke of a "return of Françafrique".[17][18] On 14 July 2013, troops from 13 African countries marched with the French military during the Bastille Day parade in Paris for the first time since French colonial troops were dissolved.[19]


Definition of the conceptEdit

Origin of the expressionEdit

The term "Françafrique" seems to have been used for the first time, in a positive sense, in 1955 by President Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Côte d'Ivoire, who advocated maintaining a close relationship with France, while acceding to independence. Close cooperation between Houphouët-Boigny and Jacques Foccart, chief adviser on African policy in the Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou governments (1958–1974) is thought to have contributed to the "Ivorian miracle" of economic and industrial progress.[20]

The term was subsequently borrowed by François-Xavier Verschave as the title of his 1999 criticism of French policies in Africa: La Françafrique, le plus long scandale de la République (ISBN 2-234-04948-2). Verschave and the association Survie, of which he was president until his death in 2005, re-used the expression of Houphouët-Boigny to name and denounce the many concealed bonds between France and Africa. He later defined Françafrique as "the secret criminality in the upper echelons of French politics and economy, where a kind of underground Republic is hidden from view". He said that it also means "France à fric" (fric is a slang word for "cash"), and that "Over the course of four decades, hundreds of thousands of euros misappropriated from debt, aid, oil, and cocoa or drained through French importing monopolies, have financed French political-business networks (all of them offshoots of the main neo-Gaullist network), shareholders' dividends, the secret services' major operations and mercenary expeditions."[21]

Historical contextEdit

Charles de Gaulle at the inauguration of the Brazzaville Conference, 1944

When French President Charles de Gaulle came back into power in 1958, anti-colonization movements and other international forces pressured France to give independence to the French colonies in Africa (except Algeria, whose status was separate). In the meantime De Gaulle put Jacques Foccart, one of his close friends, in charge of maintaining a de facto dependency.[22][23] Therefore, from 1960 to 1974, Jacques Foccart held the function of chief advisor to the government of France on African policy. He was re-selected in 1986 by the new Prime Minister, Jacques Chirac, for two years.[24] When Chirac gained the presidency in 1995 Foccart was brought back again to the Elysée palace as an advisor. Until his death Foccart never stopped being influential in French-African diplomatic relations, and it is commonly considered that he and De Gaulle were the founding fathers of the neo-colonial relationship between France and Africa.[25] Throughout successive French governments until Sarkozy, defence of the African backyard, despite the evolution of forms and methods, has always remained a high strategic imperative.

Initially, the "Françafrique" policy was motivated by three strategic concerns:

  • Economic — Provided and secured access to strategic raw materials (oil, uranium, etc.) and offered preferential investment outlets for French multinational companies. Several French-African agreements gave France 'exclusive monopoly rights to natural resources', as mentioned in the United States diplomatic cables leak many years later.[26]
  • Diplomatic — Maintained the declining status of France as a global powerhouse with a network of ally countries supporting the French vote in international institutions.
  • Political — Deterred the communist expansion in Africa by backing anti-communist régimes as well as increasing the presence of French military bases on the continent.

Countries concernedEdit

Françafrique includes all of French-speaking Africa, i.e. former French and Belgian colonies in Africa: Togo, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Burundi, Chad, Comoros, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Benin, Tunisia, Morocco, Guinea, Niger, Djibouti, Mali, Central African Republic, Mauritania, Algeria, and also other countries like Equatorial Guinea, where France gained influence after its independence from Spain.

Not all countries are affected by Françafrique to the same extent. Petroleum dictatorships like Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the archetypes of "Françafrique"[citation needed]. In such countries, the relationships between the leaders and the French authorities are very closely knit, given the prevalence of the Total group in the economy. The situation is similar in other autocratic countries like Togo, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad and the Central African Republic.

On the other hand, in other former colonies like the Maghreb countries or the Côte d'Ivoire, which had had a conflict relationship with France in the past, the French influence and networks are much less evident than in the countries mentioned above, even if the economic aspect shares some similarities with the practices of Françafrique[citation needed] Lastly, democratic countries like Mali and Senegal are less concerned by this phenomenon, for both economic and historical reasons.[citation needed]


Elysée's Africa cellEdit

France's African policy has always been directed separately from the French foreign ministry. It is managed from the Elysée Palace, seat of the French Presidency. More precisely, French policy on Africa is managed from the Elysée’s Africa cell (at 2 rue de l’Elysée, Paris), where the President and his advisors make decisions on military support for African countries or for their ruling governments.

The Africa group's founding father Jacques Foccart was appointed by President Charles de Gaulle and after that became a specialist on African matters at the Elysée Palace. Between 1986 and 1992, Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, the son of President François Mitterrand and a former AFP journalist in Africa, held the position of chief adviser on African policy at the Elysée African cell, which got him nicknamed "Papamadi" (translated as "Daddy told me"), and replaced it with just a diplomatic advisor on Africa but the difference in titles was only symbolic. The new mentor on African matters at the Elysée is general secretary Claude Guéant, a close aide to the president.

Underground diplomacyEdit

The French consular network in Africa is extensive, although this is also generally the case in many other regions worldwide (France has the second most extensive consular network worldwide after the U.S.).[27] But the "Françafrique" is more a matter of concealed networks and unofficial emissaries rather than a matter of "official" diplomacy. Around the official representative of the French interests, there is also a maze of power consisting of political leaders, businessmen, intelligence agents, and military corps or mercenaries.

Many players have combined official and unofficial activities: for example, Maurice Robert, a former intelligence agent who became the chief executive of SDECE, the French External Documentation and Counter-Espionage Service (formerly the DGSE, General Directorate for External Security) in Africa. In the ambit of his new appointment, he led many military actions in Africa, helping or deposing heads of state in accordance with French interests in these countries. More particularly, he supervised operations for the notorious mercenary Bob Denard). In 1973, he was pushed aside from the intelligence services and then directly employed by the petroleum company Elf. In 1979,\ he was appointed French ambassador to Gabon, on the demand of President Omar Bongo of Gabon, whom he had helped to take power. In 1982, he went back to Elf where he finished his career before retirement.[28]

Another of the most active unofficial intermediaries of the "Françafrique" is the Franco-Lebanese lawyer Robert Bourgi, close aide to the Bongo family and to many other African leaders, and also an informal advisor to President Nicolas Sarkozy. Robert Bourgi admitted that he supplanted the Secretary of State for Overseas Development, Jean-Marie Bockel. Bockel wanted to break away from the "Françafrique", and in response to a question from a journalist from Le Monde in January 2008, he said that he wanted to "sign the death certificate of Françafrique".[29] This displeased the African dictators, who preferred to address Robert Bourgi as an intermediary. In 2009, Bourgi, on behalf of the French government, supported the presidential election of Ali Bongo Ondimba, son of former President Omar Bongo.[30]


The CFA Franc was created in 1945 for French colonies in Africa, originally fixed to the Franc, now to the Euro. France holds half of the foreign exchange reserves in exchange for guaranteeing their currency, which continues in use in 14 countries, split into two unions, West African and Central African. The interest rate paid by France for the reserves is less than the French inflation rate, causing losses for the African countries. French officials sit on the boards of both unions, giving France considerable control. Developmental economist Ndongo Samba Sylla described the arrangement as "monetary imperialism", and Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio accused France of using the currency to exploit the former French colonies. However, its supporters have defended it as a stabilising force keeping the inflation rate down as compared to neighbouring countries.[31]

Development aidEdit

French development aid in Africa is based on two organizations: the AFD (French Development Agency) which handles government-to-government funding, and PROPARCO (Promotion and Participation for Economic Cooperation, a subsidiary of the AFD) which funds the private sector in developing countries.


Former President of France François Hollande with King Mohammed VI of Morocco and other world leaders in Marrakesh.

The "Françafrique" policy came under the spotlight once more after the January 2010 attacks on Togo's national football team. France has been accused of meddling in Angolan affairs by backing of separatist groups such as Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda and harboring their leaders.[32]

In 2010, the presidents of France's former colonies in Africa were invited for lunch at the Elysée Palace with then-president Nicolas Sarkozy. The invitation had brought a lot of criticism. Although Sarkozy had promised pension benefits to every former soldier in France's African colonies, the French association Survie felt that the French government was still looking out for its own benefits.[33]

President François Hollande likewise maintained the promise of the previous Elysée government to end Françafrique.[34] However, Hollande authorized military interventions in Mali, the Central African Republic and Chad, which was a departure from the previous government's policy of disengagement in Africa and a rapprochement toward Françafrique.[17]

In February 2015, France launched AfricaFrance, a foundation headed by Lionel Zinsou and endorsed by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs to 'relaunch' the relationship between France and Africa.[35]

Quotations about "Françafrique"Edit

  • Omar Bongo, former president of Gabon: "Gabon without France is like a car with no driver. France without Gabon is like a car with no fuel..." (18 September 1996) reported during an interview for the newspaper Libération
  • François Mitterrand, then the French minister of the interior: "Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century" (1957).[36]
  • Jacques Godfrain, former French foreign minister: "A little country [France], with a small amount of strength, we can move a planet because [of our]…relations with 15 or 20 African countries…"

See alsoEdit






  1. ^ "French election: What Emmanuel Macron's win means for Africa". BBC News Online. 19 May 2017. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  2. ^ Taylor, Ian (1 April 2010). The International Relations of Sub-Saharan Africa. A&C Black. p. 51. ISBN 9780826434012.
  3. ^ RFI -14 July 2010 – Olivier Fourt – 1960–2010, 50 ans d’interventions militaires françaises en Afrique
  4. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Les Forces françaises au Gabon
  5. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Les Éléments français au Sénégal
  6. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Les forces françaises stationnées à Djibouti
  7. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Les Forces armées en zone sud de l'Océan Indien
  8. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Mali
  9. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Les éléments français au Tchad (EFT)
  10. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Les forces françaises en République Centrafricaine
  11. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Opération EU NAVFOR Somalie / Atalante – Lutte contre la piraterie
  12. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Les forces françaises en Côte d'Ivoire
  13. ^ "How France maintains its grip on Africa". BBC News Online. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  14. ^ Samuël Foutoyet, Nicolas Sarkozy ou la Françafrique décomplexée, Tribord, 2009, p. 11 (French)
  15. ^ 50 years later, Françafrique is alive and well – Christophe Boisbouvier – 16 February 2010 – RFI English
  16. ^ Reconnaissons que l'Elysée rompt avec la « Françafrique », article by Venance Konan, Le Monde, 16 avril 2011 (French)
  17. ^ a b The New York Times – The Return of Françafrique – PIERRE HASKI – 21 July 2013
  18. ^ Al Jazeera – Ending 'Francafrique' – 12 March 2013 (archive link)
  19. ^ France24 - African troops march with French for Bastille Day - 14 July 2013
  20. ^ DO (5 February 2009). "Big Read: Félix Houphouët-Boigny: Builder of modern Ivory Coast". The Daily Observer. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
  21. ^ Survie France (French)
  22. ^ Bruno Charbonneau, France and the New Imperialism, Ashgate, 1994
  23. ^ Anton Andereggen, France's Relationship with Subsaharan Africa, Praeger Publishers, 1994
  24. ^ Eric Berman; Katie E. Sams; Institute for Security Studies (South Africa) (2000). Peacekeeping in Africa: Capabilities and Culpabilities. United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research. p. 355. ISBN 9290451335.
  25. ^ Dr Lansine Kaba (15 August 2013). "Q&A: France's connections in Africa". Al-Jazeera.
  26. ^, U.S. Embassy Paris, "France's Changing Africa Policy - Part I", Friday, 1 August 2008, 08PARIS1501.
  27. ^ "Bilateral embassies". France Diplomatie. Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (France). Retrieved 27 August 2013.
  28. ^ François Soudan : Maurice Robert, Jeune Afrique, 6 décembre 2005 (French)
  29. ^ "Jean-Marie Bockel : " Je veux signer l'acte de décès de la "Françafrique"" [Jean-Marie Bockel: "I want to sign the death certificate of the Françafrique"] (in French). Le Monde. 16 January 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2010. (French)
  30. ^ Interview Robert Bourgi, RTL, 7 septembre 2009 (French)
  31. ^ Specia, Megan (22 January 2019). "The African Currency at the Center of a European Dispute C.F.A. francs are used in 14 countries in west and central Africa. Credit Issouf Sanogo/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Image". New York Times.
  32. ^ Angela Charlton (12 January 2010). "Togo Bus Rampage Exposes France's Angola Ties". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 January 2010.
  33. ^ Guillaume Guguen (13 July 2010). "Elysée lunch for heads of former French colonies draws criticism". France 24. Retrieved 13 July 2010.
  34. ^ "Hollande hails 'new chapter' between France and Africa" (Web). France 24. 12 October 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  35. ^ "After BusinessFrance, France launches AfricaFrance" (Web). FDIMagnet. 6 February 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  36. ^ "Mitterrand l'africain" (PDF). Sans l'Afrique il n'y aura pas d'histoire de France au XXIe siècle.

External linksEdit