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Meeting between Nicolas Sarkozy and Omar Bongo in Gabon (2007)
  Countries usually considered as Francophone Africa. These countries had a population of 363 million in 2013.[1] Their population is projected to reach between 785 million[2] and 814 million[1] in 2050.
French is the fastest growing language on the continent (in terms of official or foreign language).[3][4]
  Countries sometimes considered as Francophone Africa
  Countries that are not Francophone but are Members or Observers of the OIF

Françafrique (French pronunciation: ​[fʁɑ̃safʁik]) is France's relationship with its former African colonies.[5] The term was first used in a positive sense by President Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Côte d'Ivoire, with reference to that country's economic growth and political stability. However, it is now sometimes used to criticize the allegedly "neocolonial" relationship France has with its African former colonies. Since the independence of African states in 1960, France has intervened militarily more than 30 times in the continent.[6] France has military bases in Gabon,[7] Senegal,[8] Djibouti,[9] Mayotte and Réunion.[10] The French Army is also deployed in Mali,[11] Chad,[12] Central African Republic,[13] Somalia[14] and Ivory Coast.[15] There is an ongoing dispute as to whether "Françafrique" still exists.[16][17][18] Since 2012, some have spoken of a "return of Françafrique".[19][20] On 14 July 2013, troops from 13 African countries marched with the French military during the Bastille Day parade in Paris for the first time since French colonial troops were dissolved.[21]

Definition of the concept[edit]

Origin of the expression[edit]

The term "Françafrique" seems to have been used for the first time, in a positive sense, in 1955, by President Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Côte d'Ivoire, who advocated maintaining a close relationship with France, while acceding to independence. Close cooperation between Houphouët-Boigny and Jacques Foccart, chief adviser on African policy in the Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou governments (1958–1974) is thought to have contributed to the "Ivorian miracle" of economic and industrial progress.[22]

The term was subsequently borrowed by François-Xavier Verschave as the title of his criticism of French policies in Africa: La Françafrique, le plus long scandale de la République (ISBN 2-234-04948-2). François-Xavier Verschave and the association Survie, of which he was president until his death in 2005, reused the expression of Houphouët-Boigny in order to name and denounce all the concealed bonds between France and Africa. He later defined Françafrique as "the secret criminality in the upper echelons of French politics and economy, where a kind of underground Republic is hidden from view". He said that it also means "France à fric" (fric is a slang word for "cash"), and that "Over the course of four decades, hundreds of thousands of euros misappropriated from debt, aid, oil, and cocoa or drained through French importing monopolies, have financed French political-business networks (all of them offshoots of the main neo-Gaullist network), shareholders' dividends, the secret services' major operations and mercenary expeditions."[23]

Historical context[edit]

When French President Charles De Gaulle came back into power in 1958, anti-colonization movements and other international forces pressured France to give independence to the French colonies in Africa (except Algeria whose status was separate). In the meantime De Gaulle put Jacques Foccart, one of his close friends, in charge of maintaining a de facto dependency.[24][25] Therefore, from 1960 to 1974, Jacques Foccart held the function of chief advisor for the government of France on African policy. He was re-selected in 1986 by the new Prime minister Jacques Chirac for two years and when Chirac finally gained the presidency in 1995 Foccart was brought back again to the Elysée palace as an advisor. Foccart never stopped being an influential person in the French-African diplomatic relationship and it is commonly considered that he and De Gaulle were the founding fathers of the neo-colonial relationship between France and Africa. Throughout the successive French governments until President Nicolas Sarkozy's appointment, the defence of the African backyard, despite the evolution of the forms and methods, has always remained a high strategic imperative.

Initially, the "Françafrique" policy was motivated by three strategic concerns:

  • Economic  : provided and secured access to strategic raw materials (oil, uranium, etc.) and offered preferential investment outlets for French multinational companies.
  • Diplomatic : Maintained the declining status of France as a global powerhouse with a network of ally countries supporting the French vote in international institutions.
  • Political : Deterred the communist expansion in Africa by backing anti-communist regimes as well as increasing the presence of French military bases on the continent.

Countries concerned[edit]

All of French-speaking Africa, which includes Togo, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Burundi, Chad, Comoros, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Benin, Tunisia, Morocco, Guinea, Niger, Djibouti, Mali, Central African Republic, Mauritania, Algeria, but also other countries, like Equatorial Guinea, in which the French influence gained weight after independence.

All countries are not affected by "Françafrique" to the same extent. Indeed, petroleum dictatorships, like Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are the archetypes of "Françafrique"[citation needed]. In such countries, the relationships between the leaders and the French authorities are very closely knit, given the prevalence of the Total group in the economy. The situation is similar in the other autocratic countries like Togo, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad and Central African Republic. On the other hand, in other former colonies like the Maghreb countries or Côte d'Ivoire that had a conflict relationship with France in the past, the French influence and networks are much less than in the countries mentioned above, even if the economic aspect shares some similarities with "Françafrique" practices.[citation needed] Lastly, democratic countries like Mali and Senegal are less concerned by this phenomenon, both for economic and historical reasons.[citation needed]

"Françafrique" framework[edit]

African Elysee's cell[edit]

France's African policy has always been directed apart from the French foreign ministry: it is managed from the Palais de L'Elysee, and more precisely from the Elysee’s Africa cell (at 2 rue de l’Elysée, Paris), where the President and his advisors take decisions on military support for African countries or for the ruling governments.

The Elysee’s Africa cell cannot be differentiated from its founding father, Jacques Foccart, who was appointed by President de Gaulle and since then, became a specialist on African matters at the Elysee Palace. Between 1986 and 1992, Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, the son of President François Mitterrand and former journalist of the AFP in Africa, held the position of chief adviser on African policy at the Elysee, which got him nicknamed "Papamadi" (translated as "Daddy told me"). The suppression of this cell by President Nicolas Sarkozy (who replaced it by a mere diplomatic advisor on Africa) is only symbolic, as the new mentor on African matters at the Elysee is the general secretary Claude Guéant, a close aide to the president.

Underground diplomacy[edit]

The French consular network in Africa is extensive, although this is also generally the case in many other regions worldwide (France has the second most extensive consular network worldwide after the U.S.).[26] But the "Françafrique" is more a matter of concealed networks and unofficial emissaries rather than a matter of "official" diplomacy. Around the official representative of the French interests, there is also a maze of power consisting of political leaders, businessmen, intelligence agents, and military corps or mercenaries.

Many players have combined official and unofficial activities: for example, Maurice Robert, former intelligence agent who became the chief executive of SDECE, the French External Documentation and Counter-Espionage Service (former DGSE, General Directorate for External Security) in Africa. In the ambit of his new appointment, he led many military actions in Africa, helping or deposing heads of state in accordance with the French interest in these countries (more particularly, he supervised operations for the notorious mercenary Bob Denard). In 1973, he was pushed aside from the intelligence services and was then directly employed by the petroleum company Elf. Eventually, in 1979, he was appointed French ambassador to Gabon, on the demand of President Omar Bongo of Gabon, whom he had helped to take power. In 1982, he changed position and came back to Elf where he finished his career before retirement.[27]

Another of the most active unofficial intermediaries of the "Françafrique" is the Franco-Lebanese lawyer Robert Bourgi, close aide to the Bongo family and to many other African leaders, and also an informal advisor of President Nicolas Sarkozy. Robert Bourgi admitted that he supplanted the Secretary of State for Overseas Development, Jean-Marie Bockel. Bockel wanted to break away from the "Françafrique", and in response to a question from a journalist from Le Monde in January 2008, he said that he wanted to "sign the death certificate of Françafrique",[28] which displeased the African dictators who preferred to address Robert Bourgi as an intermediary. In 2009, Bourgi, on behalf of the French government, supported the presidential election of Ali Bongo Ondimba, son of former President Omar Bongo.[29]

Development aid[edit]

French development aid in Africa is based on two organizations: the AFD (French Development Agency) which handles the Government to Government funding and the PROPARCO (Promotion and Participation for Economic Cooperation, a subsidy of the AFD) which funds the private sector in developing countries.

The "Françafrique" today[edit]

The "Françafrique" policy came under the spotlight once more after the January 2010 attacks on Togo's national football team. France has been accused of meddling in Angolan affairs through backing of separatist groups such as Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda and harboring their leaders.[30]

The former French African colonies' presidents were invited for lunch at the Elysée Palace with then-president Nicolas Sarkozy in July 2010. The invitation has brought a lot of criticism. President Sarkozy said that the African presidents were invited because the national day symbolizes 50 years of independence.[citation needed] French association "Survie" feels that France is still looking out for its own benefits, not Africa's, even though President Sarkozy has offered pension benefits to every former soldier in its African colonies.[31]

Despite new President François Hollande repeating the promise of his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy to end the Françafrique,[32] after military interventions in Mali, the Central African Republic and Chad which were seen as a reversal of former President Sarkozy's gradual withdrawal from Africa, soon into Hollande's presidency commentators began to talk of a return to Françafrique.[33]

On 6 February 2015, France launched AfricaFrance, a foundation headed by Lionel Zinsou and endorsed by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs to 'relaunch' the relationship between France and Africa .[34]

Quotes about "Françafrique"[edit]

  • Omar Bongo, former president of Gabon: "Gabon without France is like a car with no driver. France without Gabon is like a car with no fuel..." (18 September 1996) reported during an interview for the newspaper Libération
  • François Mitterrand, then-minister of the Interior of France: "Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century" (1957).[35]
  • Jacques Godfrain, former French foreign minister: "A little country [France], with a small amount of strength, we can move a planet because [of our]…relations with 15 or 20 African countries…"

See also[edit]



  • FRANÇAFRIQUE, movie by Patrick Benquet, (2010)
  • Le Professionnel, action movie by Georges Lautner (1981)
  • Fratricide in Burkina:Thomas Sankara and French Africa, movie by Didier Mauro and Thuy-Tiën Ho (2008)



  • Mme Bâ, novel by Erik Orsenna (2003)


  1. ^ a b Population Reference Bureau. "2013 World Population Data Sheet" (PDF). Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  2. ^ United Nations. "World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision" (XLS). Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  3. ^ "Agora: La francophonie de demain". Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  4. ^ "Bulletin de liaison du réseau démographie" (PDF). Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Steven Erlanger (12 September 2011). "Rwandan Leader, in Paris, Seeks to Ease Tensions". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ RFI -14 July 2010 – Olivier Fourt – 1960–2010, 50 ans d’interventions militaires françaises en Afrique
  7. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Les Forces françaises au Gabon
  8. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Les Éléments français au Sénégal
  9. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Les forces françaises stationnées à Djibouti
  10. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Les Forces armées en zone sud de l'Océan Indien
  11. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Mali
  12. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Les éléments français au Tchad (EFT)
  13. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Les forces françaises en République Centrafricaine
  14. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Opération EU NAVFOR Somalie / Atalante – Lutte contre la piraterie
  15. ^ French Ministry of Defence – Les forces françaises en Côte d'Ivoire
  16. ^ Samuël Foutoyet, Nicolas Sarkozy ou la Françafrique décomplexée, Tribord, 2009, p. 11 (French)
  17. ^ 50 years later, Françafrique is alive and well – Christophe Boisbouvier – 16 February 2010 – RFI English
  18. ^ Reconnaissons que l'Elysée rompt avec la « Françafrique », article by Venance Konan, Le Monde, 16 avril 2011 (French)
  19. ^ The New York Times – The Return of Françafrique – PIERRE HASKI – 21 July 2013
  20. ^ Al Jazeera – Ending 'Francafrique' – 12 March 2013
  21. ^ France24 - African troops march with French for Bastille Day - 14 July 2013
  22. ^ DO (5 February 2009). "Big Read: Félix Houphouët-Boigny: Builder of modern Ivory Coast". The Daily Observer. Retrieved 27 August 2013. 
  23. ^ Survie France (French)
  24. ^ Bruno Charbonneau, France and the New Imperialism, Ashgate, 1994
  25. ^ Anton Andereggen, France's Relationship with Subsaharan Africa, Praeger Publishers, 1994
  26. ^ "Bilateral embassies". France Diplomatie. Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (France). Retrieved 27 August 2013. 
  27. ^ François Soudan : Maurice Robert, Jeune Afrique, 6 décembre 2005 (French)
  28. ^ "Jean-Marie Bockel : " Je veux signer l'acte de décès de la "Françafrique"" [Jean-Marie Bockel: "I want to sign the death certificate of the Françafrique"] (in French). Le Monde. 16 January 2008. Retrieved 13 January 2010.  (French)
  29. ^ Interview Robert Bourgi, RTL, 7 septembre 2009 (French)
  30. ^ Angela Charlton (12 January 2010). "Togo Bus Rampage Exposes France's Angola Ties". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  31. ^ Guillaume Guguen (13 July 2010). "Elysée lunch for heads of former French colonies draws criticism". France 24. Retrieved 13 July 2010. 
  32. ^ "Hollande hails 'new chapter' between France and Africa" (Web). France 24. 12 October 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  33. ^ The New York Times – The Return of Françafrique – PIERRE HASKI – 21 July 2013
  34. ^ "After BusinessFrance, France launches AfricaFrance" (Web). FDIMagnet. 6 February 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  35. ^ "Mitterand l'africain" (PDF). Sans l’Afrique il n’y aura pas d’histoire de France au XXIe siècle. 

External links[edit]