The Competion for Africa between China and France

Published on 2 March 2021 at 12:38

In the 21st century, Africa has seen exponential growth in its economy. People are moving from rural areas to cities in search of work and the cities are growing at an incredible pace. The future is incredibly bright and looks as if it will be prosperous for the continent. However, there are outside elements spotting the opportunity that is developing. 

Chinese SOEs (State Owned Enterprises) and private Chinese contractors have amassed total sums of investment in the trillions of dollars over the course of a 15-year period. Building infrastructures such as roads, motorways, railway lines, ports and harbours as well as investing in local businesses has accelerated the economic progression of the entire region tenfold. 

Chinese businesses operating in Africa are worth a sum close to $2 trillion. Initiatives from President XI Jinping such as the Belt and Road project have drastically improved the levels of trade and improved China’s balance sheet. 

This is the modern version of the Silk Road which was a trading route between the far west in Europe and the far east in China but now, billions have been invested in a new route which encompasses both land routes across Asia and into Europe but also, a maritime route going from the South China Sea all the way across the Indian Ocean and reaching African ports before going on through the Suez Canal. 

The reason China sees this investment opportunity and is choosing the grab it with both hands is down to numerous reasons. Namely, one third of all Chinese oil imports come from Africa. In order for any country to continue to operate an economy that is growing at the rate of like China, it needs oil in order to fuel the industrial machine. 

The Chinese Government see this is available to them in Africa and they are endeavouring to adopt a “hard power” approach by investing hugely in the region in a bid to ensure that they maintain a high level of influence over the continent. 

However, they are not the only country who see they have much to gain in Africa. 

During the previous centuries, Europeans have colonised the vast majority of Africa. They exploited the native populations in a bid to build up their own home nations strength both economically and militarily. Countries like the UK, Belgium, Germany, Spain, France and Portugal all had claims on land in Africa but one of those countries seems to be endeavouring to reignite the connection they once had with the continent. 

France controlled large proportions of North and West Africa for centuries up until as recently as the 1960s and 1970s. Countries like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and many more, were under direct French rule. 

France has since decolonised and withdrew its foreign claims on distant lands hundreds of miles from Paris but, tides are beginning to turn. 

François Mitterand, the former French President, in 1957, stated that “Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century.” It seems that this prophesy is being acted upon by the current French leader, Emmanuel Macron. 

In 2018, he announced plans to renovate an old 16th century château which was previously a home to French colonial leaders and turn it into a centre for the French language. Macron also revealed his intentions to invest millions of euros in African primary and secondary schools and develop a new curriculum which is based off of the French language. 

In the 1990s, many of the elders in the old colonies would have viewed Paris as being “guardians” given the aggressions of the German Reich and Italy in the 1940s, but this level of adoration is not there in the younger generations who are more independent. However, Macron has spotted an interesting avenue to enact his wishes of a united Francophone world by using a “soft power” avenue. 

English may be the most spoken language in the world with roughly 1.5 billion speakers. The French language is the 5th most common language on the planet. Even though English is clearly more relevant in the world in terms of business and popularity, two interesting points are raised in a video by Caspian Report. 

The population of Africa is growing rapidly and French is the dominant language in most African countries due to the effects of colonisation. This, coupled with the second point that English has numerous countries who could claim to be the “leader” of the English speaking world with the likes of US, UK, Australia, and Canada all have influence in this realm. There is only one leader in the French speaking world: France. 

France would be able to regenerate new ties of allegiance with the old colonies through this niche as they would be the sole leader of the Francophone countries worldwide. Macron could influence foreign policy with this investment of the French language in African schools with the idea of maintaining the sort of relationship France one had with the elder generations of the continent. 

It remains to be seen whether something like this could possibly work. It has been subject to criticism and scrutiny from numerous academics such as Alain Mabanckou, a professor at the University of California who was asked by Macron to help stimulate ideas on what the new curriculum could look like but he outright refused claiming it was just a façade for interfering with former colonies' affairs. 

For Africa, the future remains look bright with foreign nations investing, albeit possibly for their own gain, Africa is growing rapidly as a result. It is however a time to be wary and observant as there is a fine line between bona fide investment and greed. Only time will tell for what lies in store for the for grand continent. 


CaspianReport’s video:

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