Date: 8 December 2023 Author: János Hajdu
China in Francafrique
The question of Francafrique is very complicated and it is difficult to describe the nature of ties between France and the former colonies. The research of Francafrique is priceless, because it can help a lot to understand the diplomatic war between the great powers.
When France didn’t have any other option, it had to release its colonies, and they changed to a new system called neocolonialism2. Some of the experts say it’s beneficial for the countries of CFA3 – for example incoming aid from France, the presence of French military which secure the Sub-Saharan countries against terrorism4, promotion of liberalism and democracy and stabilization of the governments5 -, but on the other hand it seems like the new form of colonialism. For example the CFA states have to keep their money in Banque de France6 and they able to use freely just a little portion of their money7. And the contract says if they want, they can leave the agreement easily, however if we look at the example of Guinea we can see what can happen to those countries which don’t want to be the part of Francafrique – Guinea couldn’t recover from the economic attack which was used against it as example for other countries8.
In theory, Françafrique should benefit France as well as the African states that remain in the French sphere of influence. France gets access to the rare raw materials and the aids and with trade should help prosper for the African countries. However, this holds back the economies of CFA members and prevents self-sustainable economic growth9 because the export of these countries always be raw materials (for example cocoa, cash corps, uranium, ores etc)10. And a little change in the prices or the demand can bring these countries to an economic decline11.
Of course it is really hard to escape from this, because these raw materials are priceless to everyone. Modern countries can boost their economies with inexhaustive amount of cheap resources12. And of course the shipping of this resources is a very good deal. France13 and China14 fight over the ports – who owns the port, owns the money from the trade. Such an economic environment fits perfectly with liberal economic theory which aim a world with specialized countries, so this perfect to confirm the rights of great powers to ship the chance to the economic growth15. This theory rejects defensive duties. Bienefeld16 was who pointed the danger of this type of economic system and the key of economic miracle of NIC countries what was the strong influence over their monetary system and their trade17.
This is the reason why China could appear in the region, not just with the money but with the new trade opportunities18 (here I must mention what Yohannes Ruth said about it in his work “it is crucial for Côte d’Ivoire to learn from its experience with France and prevent its economy from becoming economically dependent on China in the coming years.”19). With the increasing anti-France, anti-Francafrique attitude20 21 and increasingly frequent coups22 France started to lose its influence23 in the region and this is becoming a major threat to France, because an important portion of France’s raw material imports are coming from this area24. And this is the interesting part of researching in Sub-Saharan Africa, because we can track the fight and power changes between the great powers which can show us more about the relations between international and internal politics. Why was it important for President
Macron to go to three middle-Asia countries? Gergely Kitta pointed out it perfectly25. As he mentioned, the coup d’état in Niger threatens the security of uranium supplies to French power plants. 20% (19% – depends on sources) of France’s nuclear imports come from Niger26, where there are three uranium mines majority-owned by Oranon (a French multinational company) 27. This is the reason why France has to look for new partners in uranium mining in Southeast Asia28.
At the same time because France had to go to Asia and build new relations with investments and agreements, China had to make a step immediately and make investments in this region too because China can’t let middle-Asia too France as long as the Belt and Road Initiative29. The main Belt and Road land routes cross these countries, so China has to defend its position because of its trade routes and China’s Achilles’ heel, the Singapore Strait – most of China’s oil imports and much of China’s trade pass through it30. A US military base is located there, making any conflict very dangerous for China. So, in order to secure this bypass route and, of course, the most important trade routes, China must maintain its influence in the region. If China invests in Africa, France must move to Central Asia to secure its supply of raw materials, but because of these factors, China must follow France and also invest in Central Asia, which could open a new front between them. Or a new partnership
These countries cannot be just rivals, they had a chance to create a more friendly relation between them. I need to mention that today the state isn’t the main actor in the strategy of France or China31. Instead of them their multinational companies make the ties between them and African countries32. And cooperation is sometimes better for these companies than fighting over profits and losing them. We already see a lot of cooperation between French and
Chinese companies33, and once the two countries tried to organise a cooperation summit, but it never took place34. Struggling in new areas could force a new level of partnership between France and China in the future.
2 Yohannes, Ruth, “The End of Francafrique? French Economic and Political Strategies in Cote d’Ivoire and their Local Responses (2019)” (2019). International Studies Undergraduate Honors Theses. 13. https://scholarworks.seattleu.edu/intl-std-theses/13
3 David Hundeyin: https://www.theafricareport.com/20326/the-french-colonial-tax-a-misleading-heuristic-for-understanding-francafrique/
4 France – A Continuing Military Presence in Francophone Africa (2019) – Studies in African Security – https://www.foi.se/rest-api/report/FOI%20Memo%206814
7 Ndongo Samba Sylla: The CFA Franc: French Monetary Imperialism in Africa – The CFA Franc: French Monetary Imperialism in Africa – ROAPE
8 Mame Diarra Diop: French monetary neo-colonialism: the CFA franc (2004) 85-88p – Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia http://dspace.unive.it/bitstream/handle/10579/19203/857139-1250226.pdf
9 Yohannes, Ruth, “The End of Francafrique? French Economic and Political Strategies in Cote d’Ivoire and their Local Responses (2019)” (2019). International Studies Undergraduate Honors Theses. 13. https://scholarworks.seattleu.edu/intl-std-theses/13
15 Yohannes, Ruth, “The End of Francafrique? French Economic and Political Strategies in Cote d’Ivoire and their Local Responses (2019)” (2019). International Studies Undergraduate Honors Theses. 13. https://scholarworks.seattleu.edu/intl-std-theses/13
16 Bienefeld, M. (1988). Dependency Theory and the Political Economy of Africa’s Crisis.
19 Yohannes, Ruth, “The End of Francafrique? French Economic and Political Strategies in Cote d’Ivoire and their Local Responses (2019)” (2019). International Studies Undergraduate Honors Theses. 13. https://scholarworks.seattleu.edu/intl-std-theses/13
20 Dirk Kohnert: Will the UEMOA Survive the Rise of Anti-French Sentiment in West Africa? (2023) – GIGA – Hamburg, Institute of African Affairs
22 Alexander Hudson, David Towriss
23 Yohannes, Ruth, “The End of Francafrique? French Economic and Political Strategies in Cote d’Ivoire and their Local Responses (2019)” (2019). International Studies Undergraduate Honors Theses. 13. https://scholarworks.seattleu.edu/intl-std-theses/13
25 Gergely Kitti: Az Afrikából kiszoruló Franciaország Közép-Ázsiában épít új érdekszférát, Corvinák, https://corvinak.hu/velemeny/2023/11/14/az-afrikabol-kiszorulo-franciaorszag-kozep-azsiaban-epit-uj-erdekszferat
28 Assma Maad: How dependent is France on Niger’s uranium? (2024) – Le Monde – https://www.lemonde.fr/en/les-decodeurs/article/2023/08/04/how-dependent-is-france-on-niger-s-uranium_6080772_8.html
29 Gergely Kitta: Az Afrikából kiszoruló Franciaország Közép-Ázsiában épít új érdekszférát, Corvinák, https://corvinak.hu/velemeny/2023/11/14/az-afrikabol-kiszorulo-franciaorszag-kozep-azsiaban-epit-uj-erdekszferat
30 Xiaobo Qu,and Qiang Meng: The Economic Importance of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore: An Extreme Scenario Analysis Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, National University of Singapore – https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/143891295.pdf
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