Old habits die hard: Macron seeks end to traditional French approach to Africa

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On his first tour of Africa last week President Emmanuel Macron vowed to do away with France's old and discredited approach to the continent. Addressing 800 students in the Burkina Faso capital of Ouagadougou, the French head of state certainly struck a fresh tone, talked of new projects and themes and signalled the passing of an old generation. But as Mediapart's editor François Bonnet reports, the old and serious problems confronting France in its relations with Africa have not gone away.

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When one compares it to the efforts of his two presidential predecessors, it was undoubtedly a skilfully-constructed success. Back in 2007 President Nicolas Sarkozy had sparked a scandal with his 'Dakar speech' – written by advisor Henri Guaino – in which he told his audience in the Senegalese capital that “the tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history”. In the same city in 2012 the next French head of state, President François Hollande, promised that “the era of what one called Françafrique is over”, referring to France's traditional and controversial approach to the continent and its former colonies there. The rest of his presidency went on to prove that old practices and the old players have, too often, remained in place.