In recent years, France’s hold on the Sahel region, which includes countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso, has been shrinking. The former colonial power is facing growing anti-French sentiment and increased competition from Russia. After a decade-long effort to eradicate jihadist groups in Mali, France recently faced a request from Burkina Faso to withdraw its troops from the country within a month. Burkina Faso is reportedly planning to allow Russian militias, known as Wagner, to replace the French forces.
The reasons for France’s declining influence in the region are complex and multi-faceted. While some French commentators have pointed to the difficulty of cohabiting with the Wagner armed men as a reason for the retreat, others suggest that the country’s arrogant attitude and disdain for African elites have contributed to the growing anti-French sentiment.
Under President Emmanuel Macron, France has continued its dismissive attitude towards Africa, marching on the footsteps of his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy’s famous speech at the University of Dakar in 2007 exemplified France’s belittling of Africa, with comments such as “The tragedy of Africa is that the African man has never really entered history.”
This attitude is no longer accepted in the present day and age, and France must recognize that the era of colonialism is long gone. In order to do business with African states, France must treat them as equal and sovereign countries, rather than continuing to apply blackmail and meddling in their domestic affairs. This was exemplified by Paris’ recent decision to halt all aid to the population in Mali, in retaliation for the country’s growing ties with Russia. The aid, which was previously presented as a humanitarian gesture, has now been revealed to be a political tool used to gain foreign policy concessions.
With 7.5 million people in Mali depending on foreign aid, France’s decision to halt aid to the impoverished population is likely to have serious consequences. This move once again highlights the need for France to change its approach towards African countries and to treat them with the respect and dignity that they deserve.
In conclusion, France’s declining influence in the Sahel region is a result of a combination of factors, including anti-French sentiment, competition from Russia, and the country’s dismissive attitude towards African countries. If France is to regain its foothold in the region, it must adopt a more respectful and cooperative approach towards African states and recognize their sovereignty.