The French president has gave a speech at the French Embassy in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon.
Emmanuel Macron wants to make Africa one of the priorities of his second five-year term, in the face of competition from China and Russia, but by betting on “soft power” rather than on politics or government. military, France's traditional tools of influence.
It is up to us to be better, more efficient, the French president said on Tuesday on the first day of a tour of Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau, when the head of Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov is also visiting the African continent.
According to him, France has no choice if it wants to continue to retain some influence on the continent, especially in its former backyard in Central Africa , where Cameroon occupies a prominent place.
But, for about twenty years, we have been pushed around, perhaps because we had fallen asleep, while China, India, Russia, Turkey or Germany led the offensive and took a good part of the market share.
Result: French companies, which number around 200, now represent only around 10% of Cameroon's economy, compared to 40% in the 1990s.
Because of this, the perception of France has become blurred. The French decline is due to the fact that it no longer appears as an actor in the development of our country, notes Aude Yemelong, member of the Franco-Cameroonian youth council.
France has a huge role to play in Cameroon, but without playing any, summarizes in a formula Claude Leroy, the former coach of the national team of Indomitable Lions with which he became very popular.
As part of the presidential delegation, he recommends that Paris play a role of synthesis and suggestion to African countries.
On the political level, France does not have to interfere, to dub anyone, to give lessons, underlined the Élysée before the interview between Emmanuel Macron and his counterpart Paul Biya who, at 89, is twice as old as the Frenchman and has ruled Cameroon with an iron fist for almost 40 years.
The choice to begin with Cameroon his first African tour since his re-election has aroused strong criticism: researchers Ilaria Allegrozzi (Human Rights Watch) and Fabien Offner (International Amnesty) had considered crucial, in the daily Le World, that Mr. Macron clearly expresses to Mr. Biya his concern about the repression against anyone in the country who dares to criticize the power.
Noting that France had so far relied too much on politics and the military, Emmanuel Macron is now betting on civil society and youth, with whom he hears about culture, digital, sports, environment…
The ambition is also to settle the unsaid and the misunderstandings linked to colonization which fuel distrust of France. He announced that a commission of historians would shed light on the action of France in Cameroon during colonization and after the independence of this country in 1960.
President Emmanuel Macron with former tennis player Yannick Noah, at a party in the region of Etoudi
This memorial issue was considered essential, as a work of justice, by the 11 members of the Franco-Cameroonian council, whom Emmanuel Macron was to meet in the evening in the village Noah created by former tennis player Yannick Noah in Yaoundé.
The new French method is also being tested on the burning issue of the anti-jihadist fight, particularly in the Sahel, where Emmanuel Macron suffered disappointments, the army being forced to leave Mali after the junta came to power. .
We will not let go of the security of the African continent, however, specified the president, reaffirming his desire to reinvent the military and security apparatus.
According to Emmanuel Macron, France must be there even more explicitly at the request of African states, with a clear and explicit request, by being more present on the subjects of training, equipment, by being in support of the armies. to help them increase their capacity and by always linking our system with security, defence, diplomacy and development, he specified.
Faced with Paul Biya, who refused to explicitly condemn the invasion of Ukraine, Emmanuel Macron also strongly denounced the hybrid presence of Russia in Africa, which goes through disinformation and militias, and which is a concern first and foremost for the African continent.
Responding to him from a distance, the head of Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov, also on tour in Africa, assured that his country would significantly increase its role on the continent.
Emmanuel Macron is expected Wednesday in Benin then Thursday in Guinea-Bissau.