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The French withdrawal from Niger and the push for African sovereignty

Macron announces the end of the Françafrique: what implications for Africa and Europe?

The recent announcement by French President Emmanuel Macron regarding the end of the ‘Françafrique’ era and the order to withdraw the ambassador and troops from Niger has prompted deep reflections on the historical relationship between France and the African continent, particularly with its former colonial sphere of influence. Macron’s statement, coupled with recent political and social developments in the region, reflects a growing awareness of the changing dynamics in Africa, which in turn represents a challenge for Paris and, more broadly, for Europe.

Africa is evolving its identity, supported by a young generation that yearns to break the shackles of the colonial past and aspires to a future of autonomy and sovereignty. The reality of post-coloniality is becoming clear, and the case of Niger is emblematic of this trend. The friction between Niger and France, evident in recent protests and tensions, is an expression of African resistance to neo-colonial influence. The French military presence, once seen as a form of stability, is now perceived as a symbol of domination and interference.

Although Francafrique may be seen as a relic of the colonial past, its disintegration signals a new and complex reality. France, and by extension Europe, is faced with a series of unanswerable questions about its role and responsibilities towards Africa in a post-colonial era. Macron’s actions are indicative of an attempt to navigate uncertain waters, seeking a middle ground between retreat and support for regional African solutions. However, his decision could also be seen as a sign of strategic retreat in the face of growing local resistance and the rise of new powers in the region, such as China, Russia and Turkey.

This new phase in the Franco-African relationship not only questions the nature of future intergovernmental relations, but also emphasises the growing desire for self-determination on the part of African nations. The drive for sovereignty and autonomy was clearly expressed by Niger’s coup junta, which celebrated the announcement of the French withdrawal as a victory for Niger’s sovereignty.

Moreover, the situation in Niger and France’s decision raise urgent questions about the future of European and Western interventionism in Africa. The growing instability in regions like the Sahel, combined with the threat of terrorism, makes it imperative for the international community to find new ways to support peace and stability without repeating the mistakes of the past.

At the same time, Macron’s reassessment of Franco-African relations could provide an opportunity for a broader reflection on the legacy of Francafrique and how Europe, as a collective, could engage more constructively and respectfully with Africa. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna’s statement on supporting ‘African solutions for African crises’ points to a possible new direction for more egalitarian and collaborative engagement.

Macron’s announcement on the withdrawal from Niger and the end of Françafrique thus represents a crucial moment that exemplifies not only the end of an era, but also the beginning of a new phase in international relations. It is a call for reflection for France, Europe and the international community on how to respond effectively and respectfully to the dynamic changes taking place in Africa, emphasising the importance of genuine dialogue and cooperation to build a future of mutual benefit and respect.


Il Sole 24 Ore

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