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France has “special” economic and political relations with Francophone African countries, dating back to the 19th century, and retains its military bases in Gabon, Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Djibouti, and the Central African Republic. France’s security policy towards Africa has changed according to its economic, political and strategic interests. It has been linked with the concepts of change and continuity. For instance, during the apartheid regime, the French government strengthened its economic and political relations with South Africa and opposed the UN’s embargos of the pariah state, even encouraging Francophone African countries to increase their economic and political relations with it.
BY DR. ABDURRAHIM SIRADAG | APRIL 14, 2013
Additionally, France’s international power and position has also shaped its security policy towards Africa, seeing it become a member of the Group of Eight (G8) and one of the largest economic powers in the world. It is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and at the same time has been playing a significant role in European integration. Significantly, it is a nuclear power and a member of various security organisations, for instance NATO and the OSCE. Approximately 240,000 French citizens live in different countries of Africa, where French companies operate, such as Total, Areva, Accor, Bolloré, Bouygues, and Elf Aquitaine. In turn, Africa provides raw materials, such as uranium, natural gas and oil to France, which is still highly dependent on these for its technological industries. France also has special agreements with many African countries in the fields of defence and military power. France is the largest trading partner for the African countries within the EU members. When France’s exports to Africa in 2007 were 30,393 million dollars, its exports to Africa in 2008 increased to 36,878 million dollars. As shown in Table 3, France’s economic relations have significantly grown each year.
Nevertheless, the global economic crisis of 2007 has had a negative impact on the growth of France’s economic relations with Africa, with both exports and imports falling. France’s exports to Africa in 2009 were €17.163 million and its imports to Africa were €14.312 million. France’s economic relations have relatively started to increase in 2010, with its exports to Africa increasing to €19.516 million and imports to €16.452 million. France was also the largest of the EU’s exporters to Africa, with €20 billion in 2010.
According to Hansen and Martin, the main aims of France’s security policy towards Africa are to protect French economic and political interests and citizens and provide intelligence for the French government. The Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the collapse of the authoritarian regime in the DRC, formerly Zaire, in 1997 weakened France’s security policy towards Africa. New developments in Africa forced French policymakers to re-define security policy in Africa, particularly after the Cold War. The bipolar international system in world politics and spread of communism in Francophone African countries had been the main threat for the French interests during this era, leading France to increase its social, economic, and political relations with former colonial states in Africa against the threat of the Soviet Union.