Macron's 'new' approach to Africa - the same old clichés as in the past

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The French president has just completed a five-day tour of four African countries, Gabon, Angola, Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Before he left Paris, Emmanuel Macron delivered what was billed as a keynote speech on the future of France's relations with the continent. Yet as Justine Brabant and Ilyes Ramdani say in this analysis of that speech, the French head of state instead delivered a series of clichés and untruths. And, they say, he showed himself incapable of acknowledging his own policy failures in his dealings with African nations.

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It was a spectacular rhetorical stunt, performed by a professional. Speaking to an audience of invited guests and journalists at the Élysée a week ago in what was billed as a keynote speech on foreign policy ahead of a five-day tour of Africa, Emmanuel Macron began with a warning. Though he had already visited 21 African countries, he drew no “generalisations” from these visits because the idea of “one unique African reality exists only in numerous simplistic plans”. This came as a relief in a country where insulting comments on “this great country of Africa” can be heard, including from French heads of state themselves.