FrançAfrique – Resistance or Collaborative Fraternity?

In 1965, the term  Francafrique, was invented by Felix Houphouet Boigny the first elected President of Ivory-Coast. It represents a special relationship, that indicates no signs togetherness that empowers both sides and excludes marginalization. Instead a tacit agreement or understanding seems to exist, that one has a monopoly of ‘incompleteness’ based on a past history of imperialism and domination by one over the other since the ‘scramble of Africa’ by Western European powers, including France.


So what is Francafrique ? as we unearth this term, and challenge its existence, please bare with me, and feed me as well with your knowledge. Because, believe it or not, no teacher, even here in Oxford, has ever taught me about the Francafrique. So all that I have  to share with you today , comes from my own research and understanding.

I – The Full Swing Francafrique

In order to secure its energy resource and need for raw materials, France offered to its colonies the illusion of sovereignty and democracy via the use of the Francafrique – a special combination of concealed lobbyist networks and mechanisms to implement military-political and economic influence of the Elysee Palace in the former colonies on the continent. The guiding principle of this special relationship is best resumed by Charles De Gaulle himself in 1961 and I state – Our course of action is one that safeguards our interests and reflects realities. What are our interests? Our interests are the free exploitation of oil and gas that we have discovered or would discover.

The pillars of this politics of Francafrique were, first, implemented through the use of the CFA Franc in 1945, and which made sure that France would have a complete access to African markets and resources. By selecting and monitoring political opposition, the CFA Franc was accepted by the majority of citizens in Africa and presented as a genuine monetary system. But from my view point, and of recent scholars, the CFA Franc was more of an economic camisole linking the former colonies to France. It has forced the newly independent countries to trade with France primarily for their imports as for their exports. It has restricted foreign exchange through the French owned central banks. It has favored capital flight, which deprived Africa of fully developing local entrepreneurship. And, through the still present cooperation of the African elites, it has pushed African citizens into an intellectuel immobilism where the absence of monetary sovereignty, and national currency still do not outweigh the supposed benefits of the monetary stability and low inflation policies acclaimed by the European Central Banks.

Secondly, by making sure that it would secure its political influence and economic influence by hand picking the presidential candidates they deemed most aligned with French interest. This selection process would include techniques such as blackmail, political assassinations or direct military aggression when the direct bribery of African politicians proved impossible or insufficient. Following independence, the Francafrique was therefore in full swing, and the first wave of African leaders, in its almost entirety, became the ‘gatekeepers’ of French interests, the Black Governors of France, submitting themselves and profiting from the system that alleniated themselves from their own population nation’s interests.

At the heart of this system Jacques Foccart a men who was charged of the African Unit within the French government, a state within the state, which bypassed all conventional authorities, established direct lines between ambassadors, presidents, CEO and who was  guided by Orange Codes of General Charles de Gaulle. A code that comes as follows – the General will rarely approve of your operations in the former colonies, but he will not say no either. Do what you deem to be appropriate for the preservation of the French interest, but we do not know anything about your actions. This implies if you have problems you will not be covered. Essentially, as long as the French interest were preserved in Africa, all sorts of illegal  and semi-illegal methods were welcomed by the French state in order to maintain control over the situation.

In Gabon, the Orange Code transform independence into a myth , the President Leon M’ba, who was carefully selected by the African Unit, became a puppet of the French government. And when Gabonese military officers organised a coup d’etat under the governance of Mr Auba, Paris immediately intervened. The French Secret Services were ordered to give the power back to Leon M’ba in order for France to maintain its economic stability. And after years of dictatorship under the ruling of Leon M’pa and when himself became ill, Foccart came up with an idea, to amend the constitution and to elect a vice-president, Monsieur Albert Bongo, that would replace M’ba without an election. They organised a diplomatic show at the Embassy of Gabon in Paris, invited a few pre-selected Gabonese, and together approved the constitutional change. So when Leon M’Ba died Albert Bongo became President, (1967-2009). France delighted to see its biggest source of oil preserved under the cooperation of Albert Bongo, turned a blind eye on Bongo’s willingness to place personal gain as a primary objective, and development as optional parameters of its reign.


In Guinea the newly elected President, Sekou Toure, was also seen as a direct threat to French interest. Indeed, in 1960 Sekou Toure seized back Guinea monetary sovereignty and created the Guinea Franc as the national currency. As a response, France under Foccartès guidance, decided to print counterfeit Guinean Franc which they distributed across Guinea in order to destabilised Guinea’s monetary stability. And as we know today, this operation was a success. The economy was a highly destabilised. And Sekou Toure, became vulnerable and unpopular, which helped the opposition to gain influence. But this operation wasn’t enough. So Foccard armed and trained the Guinean opposition, in order to create a climate of insecurity, and if possible, one that would help overthrown Sekou Toure. Similar stories could be applied for places like Benin, Cameroon, Centre Afrique, and even Congo-Brazzaville, all with their specific parameters until the mid 1970s.

And if France made sure to secure political allies, it also made sure to allow its enterprise and businesses to monopolize the newly independent market and this until today. Elf, one of France most powerful nationalised oil industry at the time, thus became one of the most prominent actor of the Francafrique. In the 60s new oil discoveries along with the obtainment of exploration concessions in Gabon, made Elf a contributor for 70% of Gabon’s national. But in the early 1970s, Elf started to look elsewhere in order to meet its increasing demand for more oil resource. Under the guidance of the African Unit, it decided to to support the Biafran separatist movement  in order to secure Biafran oil. France thus actively participated to extend Biafra’s suffering and prolonged agony. It was a mass-murder executed by France, and other regional actors, and which so far has been erased from every textbook back home.

From Charles de Gaulle to Mitterrand, Jacques Foccart and its network remained influential in the Elysee Palace guiding the African Unit and making sure that business would continue as usual. And the economic cooperation agreements signed by France with its former sub-Saharan colonies, along with political terrorism or interference, was ensuring a preference or even a monopoly of access to certain strategic raw materials: oil, uranium, ores …

In the early 1990s, however, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and of the end USSR, the Francafrique  transformed. France no longer had an excuse to justify its neo-colonial presence on the continent. Elf was also hit by a major scandal, one of Europe biggest fraud enquiry, leading directly to the top of the French government, a network where oil profit served to finance politics and secret operations on the African continent to protect French’s interests and African elite interests. From the barrels produced there was always a small part that would go directly to the head of states, whether in France or in Francophone Africa. However, Elf was merged with Total, secrets were privatised and elf’s management disappeared into companies across the globe. It is still impossible under international law to investigate what leaders have done with the money. All those factors led to a growing engagement of the civil society in politics and of nationalist movement questioning the actions of their leaders.

Despite all those political turmoils, France was still hungry for its resources, and the 92 years old Foccart, assisted by the current advisor on African Affairs Robert Bourgi, still engaged in the African Unit. It is with the election of Chirac, that the Francafrique starts to become less visible, more obsolete as if governments had finally understood that the politics of the Francafrique could not be conducted as publicly and brutally as before. To some extent, a shift of power took place between France and its former colonies. African leaders, and especially Omar Bongo, knowing that the well-being of French industries such Areva, EDF, Bollore, Total depended on their willingness to cooperate with France, made sure to use their new bargaining power to satisfy their personal interest. African Leaders thus became less accommodating to France and much more concerned with maintaining, good relations with big French businesses. But those latter, still needed support from France to do their business. Sarkozy and Hollande thus became the men who facilitated their case whilst having Robert Bourgi as their special advisor on Africa. Friend of the autocrats and real warlord, François Hollande holds the record for the number of military interventions on the African continent under the Fifth Republic, whether under UN mandate or through the African Union.  Under the justification of preserving the region from instability and terrorism, those intervention maintain and strengthen French interests beyond the perimeter of the former colonies. Under their presidency, Sarkozy, Hollande and African leaders also reinforced what is modestly known as the Francophonie, consisting in the imposition of the French language as the only official language, and therefore of administration and education in countries where only a tiny, dominant minority owns them. Mastery, and creating an insurmountable gap between the elites and the masses. Interestingly, we have never seen a country in the history of mankind experience significant progress in a language that is sometimes foreign and difficult to grasp to the majority of its inhabitants.


If Macron has recently stated that, « Il n’y a plus de politique africaine de la France » but tensions persists, and Francafrique is obsolete but is surely not dying.  In an increasingly globalized world, Africa remains precious. And hunger for mineral resource made sure of that. Those resources are now being seized by various global actors , and France still needs africa for its energy supply. It continues to support French enterprise such as Areva, Bollore, Total, and EDF through its decade long Foccart network and Bourgie still visits African palaces and centers of powers outside of any public scrutiny. For instance, Uranium from Niger and resources in Mali as main source for nuclear power plants are central to the interests of Areva and ultimately France. Thus, the 2014 operations Serval in Mali, the still ongoing Barkhane Operation in Sahel, and the armed intervention of France in the Libya of Gaddafi, were actually motivated by, first and foremost, a desire to preserve the access to primary resources, such as gold and uranium, and to avoid a general destabilization of the sub-Saharan Africa and its Franc currency. Sarkozy made it clear by stating through his mandate, that he wants, and I state, ‘ France to regain its place in Africa but on new terms. Africa has raw materials and France will pay a fair price’.


But does Africa still need France ? 

Should France maintain a “realistic” African policy with its military bases, a diplomacy made of a game of lasting alliances, and a war against fanaticism?

Should it pursue its responsible course of action with its American and European allies,  and its “fight against the Chinese company buying Africa without moral considerations “?

Should it essentially transfer prerogatives to Europe (in the monetary, military and diplomatic fields)?

Should France and Africa, on the contrary, have a “transformational diplomacy” in the name of a duty of interference to rescue the victims, and push for democratic changes and the defense of human rights?

Are African leaders still the gatekeeper of French interest or are they the prisoners of a structural and neocolonial system that disempower them to act atuonomously 


Additional Statements –

Coup D Etat – But France even attempted to orchestrate a coup d’etat in 1972 against the marxist leader Mathieu Kerekou. And in Centre Afrique, a successful coup d’etat took place in 1979. Indeed, when Bokassa declared himself the Emperor of Centre Afrique, France felt uncomfortable to be politically linked to this regime. So when Bokassa flew to gain support from Muammar Gaddafi in 1979, David Dacko, the then preferred puppet of France flew Dacko in the capital, welcomed him through the presence of the French secret service, and escorted him directly to the Presidential Palace.  This operation name as the Barracuda Operation is remembered to be a success.

Gabon – In Gabon, when the opposition Rejambe an opposition leader was killed and Elf became the target of anger. That is when Paris interfered in order to restore peace, using violence and unarmed citizens, and making sure that the Bongo  dynasty would continue. 

Business – Including French businesses. Enterprises like Bolloré, who since colonial time, had made an effort to control water, and electricity supplies thus became more capable to control the almost entirety of the transport infrastructure for goods and materials around the Gulf of Guinea.


Military – Finally, La présence militaire française demeure conséquente mais elle s’est réduite. Elle est estimée à 10 000 hommes pour 760 millions d’euros, respectivement en Côte d’Ivoire (2 600), à Djibouti (2 900), au Gabon (800), au Sénégal (1 200), en RCA et au Tchad (415), sans compter les 2 400 hommes de l’opération Licorne, ni les interventions ponctuelles ou sous commandement européen ou onusien. Les firmes bénéficient des avantages liés à la monnaie unique dans les pays de la zone franc, des mécanismes de coopération monétaire et d’appuis directs de l’État français, des mécanismes de la Coface, société publique garantissant les risques des exportateurs français, et des réseaux liés aux États et aux firmes implantés en Afrique


Diplomatie – Elle reste non seulement le gendarme de l’Afrique, mais joue toujours le rôle de porte-parole de ces pays au sein du Conseil de sécurité des Nations unies. Un siège qu’elle doit et qu’elle conserve en partie grâce à ce rôle. Aujourd’hui, la possession de l’arme nucléaire ne suffit plus et le poids économique de la France est faible. Les affaires africaines, qui occupent près de 70% des résolutions et de l’activité des Nations unies, lui permettent d’être écoutée.

Cette diplomatie d’influence offre également à la France un bloc de 15 à 20 voix aux Nations unies, ce qui lui a notamment permis de relancer ses essais nucléaires en 1996. Une stratégie qu’étudient en ce moment les Japonais pour obtenir un jour un siège au Conseil de sécurité.


CFA Franc – Au total, sur 100 milliards de dollars annuels d’aide pour l’Afrique, 30 milliards s’évaporent. Certains pays ont d’importantes ressources pétrolières, mais leur population n’en bénéficie pas. Est-il légitime que notre aide soit attribuée à des pays qui gaspillent leurs propres ressources ?


Ainsi, entre 1970 et 1993, alors que les investissements étrangers s’élevaient à 1,7 milliards de dollars, le rapatriement des bénéfices, des revenus des expatriés et des possédants locaux s’est élevé à 6,3 milliards, soit un montant quatre fois supérieur.

L’exemple de la Côte d’Ivoire est édifiant. Les sociétés françaises ont investi d’abord dans le secteur des télécommunications, de l’énergie, des transports et de l’agro-industrie. Au cours de la période 1996-2000, les capitaux français représentaient 23 % des demandes d’agrément à l’investissement derrière les capitaux ivoiriens (52 %), et près de 50 % de l’ensemble des demandes d’agrément étrangères. Bouygues est actionnaire de la Compagnie ivoirienne d’électricité et la Société des eaux de Côte d’Ivoire. Les banques françaises (Société générale, Crédit lyonnais, BNP Paribas) sont dominantes sur le marché avec leurs filiales. Total possède 25 % de la Société ivoirienne de raffinage. France Télécom est devenue, avec le rachat de Citelcom et la création de la Société ivoirienne de mobiles, l’opérateur majeur en télécommunications de la république de Côte d’Ivoire.

Coralie Lolliott – Francafrique Notes

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