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France seeks to reinvent its relationship with Africa

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LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP or licensors


Four years have passed since French president Emmanuel Macron spoke to students at the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso about a new chapter in France's relationship with Africa.

"Reinventing this relationship" is the moto for this week's summit opening this Friday in France.

Achille Mbembe, a leading Cameroonian thinker on post-colonialism who was chosen by French President Emmanuel Macron to lead discussions at the Africa-France summit in October, says it is "not a summit that will change" relations between Africa and France. However, he says "the summit is the start of a very long phase that will last... one or two generations".

"The term Françafrique (French Africa) is a term, I would say, that today does not correspond exactly with what is actually happening. Many things are changing. 
A hybrid model is emerging, and it should be defined as such. Therefore it isn't a summit that will change that [the current relationship between France and Africa, and the practices inherited from France's colonial era], but this summit is the start of a very long phase that will last, in my opinion, for one or two generations", defends the philosopher and professor of History and Political Science at the University of the Witwatersrand.

The French president's relationship with Africa has had many ups and downs. 

Last year's protests in Dakar targeted President Macron after his impassioned defence of freedom of expression in the wake of the death of a teacher at the hands of a suspected Islamist extremist.

Professor Achille Mbembe believes it is necessary to mobilise entire societies in order to look to the future with confidence.

"Because you have to mobilise entire societies in order to re-establish... to repair ties that are seriously damaged and to place them in a dynamic that allows us to tackle the debates over the great challenges of the future", said Mbembe.