mage of France, caricatures of the Prophet, Sahel, CFA franc, Sahara, democracy, colonization, Ouattara, Condé, Kagame… Three years after the Ouagadougou speech, the French Head of State confided at length in JA to evoke his assessment and the burning issues of the day. Like your predecessors, you have announced your desire to rebuild relations between France and Africa. Almost three years after your speech in Ouagadougou, what has changed in concrete terms?
I have launched several projects. The first was a taboo: the restitution of African heritage. We have made very concrete gestures towards Senegal, Benin and Madagascar in particular.
But above all, a law was passed which, for the first time, allows not only the temporary transfer of a work but also its restitution, thanks to the profound intellectual, artistic and political work requested from Bénédicte Savoye and Felwine Sarr. Contemporary African generations need to understand, to touch, to own their history, to reappropriate it. The Sarr-Savoye report was extremely ambitious, and it opened up many debates throughout Europe and the world. They have done a remarkable job, which has enabled us to move forward.
The second was the end of the CFA franc. This important reform, concluded by an agreement signed during my last trip to Côte d’Ivoire, put an end to a very symbolic marker that fed a lot of fantasy and criticism. We also want to drive a new dynamic in the economic relationship that unites France and the continent, through the Digital Africa platform, but also thanks to the financing summit for Africa that we will organize in May in Paris.
These are some very concrete examples of new measures, of taboos in the relationship between France and the African continent that we have lifted, whether they be of a memorable, economic, cultural or entrepreneurial nature. They embody what we want to put in place: an equitable relationship and a true partnership. The Africa 2020 season, skillfully carried by Commissioner General N’Goné Fall, is undoubtedly the best example of this.
At the same time, we have made a change of method. Ouaga’s speech was largely designed by the Presidential Council for Africa, which brings together people with very different profiles. We also did a lot of work with the diasporas and we went to countries that no French president had ever visited. Our diplomacy has not been confined to French-speaking Africa.
Will the Africa-France summit finally take place in the coming months?
It should take place in July 2021 in Montpellier and will illustrate this change of method. We are not going to organize a classic summit, inviting heads of state. Our aim is to highlight people who embody generational renewal, including at the political level. Because if there is one difficult point, it is democratic renewal. Some countries have complied with regular alternation, others have not.
Anti-French sentiment is growing in French-speaking countries. How do you explain this?
For decades, we have had a very institutional relationship with Africa, from the heads of state in office to well-established companies. In doing so, resentment has taken a certain amount of space.
But there is also a strategy at work, sometimes led by African leaders, but above all by foreign powers, such as Russia or Turkey, which play on post-colonial resentment. One should not be naive on this subject: many of those who give voice, who make videos, who are present in the French-speaking media are stipulated by Russia or Turkey.
"France has a part of Africa in her. Our destinies are linked"
I think that between France and Africa, it must be a love story. Our country has been present on the continent through triangular trade, conflicts from the early 19th century and then colonial wars. This history is there. We are its heirs. Have we been the actors? No. Has this history been recognized? Yes, even if there is still historiographical work in progress. But we must not remain prisoners of our past. That would be terrible.
I have always had a discourse of truth, fully assumed, with regard to this history. Wherever France has been present, it has mingled. It has also been the land of creolization, of crossbreeding, of mixed marriages. A country where human adventures were allowed. Others were present in a colonial form in Africa and never mixed. Like it or not, France has a part of Africa in her. Our destinies are linked.
Your recent comments on the cartoons of the Prophet, in the name of defending freedom of expression, are a reminder of this.