Philippe Kouhoun, a journalist from Cote d’Ivoire asked the French President, “How much are the G-20 countries ready to put in the envelope to save Africa?” It was a poorly framed question which reduced the continent to a basket case waiting for European saviours if it was to have any chance at all. However, for all its faults, it did not warrant the response given. Emmanuel Macron got the opportunity he needed to play the patronising Westerner who thinks he has all the information on Africa yet he really is clueless.
History will remember that his predecessor, Nicolas Sakorzy in the July of 2007 told students at Dakar University that, “The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history… They have never really launched themselves into the future.” He added, “The African peasant only knew the eternal renewal of time, marked by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words. In this realm of fancy…there is neither room for human endeavour nor the idea of progress.”
Ten years later, Macron has done it again and has this time called Africa’s problems “civilisational”. Disrespect and anachronistic delusions of the continued existence of African subservience seem to come with the office.
Macron’s reply to the question of why there was no plan for Africa similar to that used to rehabilitate destroyed European economies by the United States was an uninformed tirade everyone in Africa should frown upon. He said, “The challenge of Africa is completely different, it is much deeper. It is civilisational today. Failing states, complex democratic transitions, the demographic transition…One of the essential challenges of Africa is that today seven or eight children are born to each woman.”
It was reminiscent of the colonialist rhetoric of the white man justifying imperialism as a civilising mission and not the economically exploitative racial attack it was. Jalata Asafa in The Triple Causes of African Underdevelopment hit the nail on the head by arguing, “These countries (European) used the discourses of the superiority of their race, culture, civilisation and Christian religion to promote and justify destructive and exploitative policies such as terrorism, genocide and economic exploitation.”
For a country that is still economic colonial master to 14 countries in Africa, it was really politically reckless to assume airs of superiority.
Emmanuel Macron, once adored as the centrist darling and leader of the free world has proved to be no different. He is nothing special! In fact, he now seems like a fraud because when he ran, he seemed in touch with the realities of colonialism and even called it “a crime against humanity”. This was a very accurate observation and an unexpected breeze of fresh air blowing from the West. His exact words were, “I think it is inadmissible to glorify colonisation. Some wanted to do that in France, more than 10 years ago. Never will you hear me say such things.” He then added that colonisation was a crime against humanity and a real barbarity. Where did that Macron go? The new Macron is intellectually lazy to attempt to realise the complexities of African problems. The West and foreign capital have been part of the problem but all Macron sees after careful evaluation is an inexistent “civilizational problem.”
Writing for The Daily Vox, Mishka Wazar gives Macron a lesson in global politics and Africa in particular starting by reminding the good leader that Africa is not a country. Wazar further writes that African problems are caused by European borders on African land. She also points to the plundering of African resources by European states, China and Israel before mentioning the interventionist agenda the West pursues in African politics.
The last nail on the coffin is her response to Macron’s inaccurate assertion that seven or eight women are born to each woman which asks the pivotal question, “Do African, Asian and South American leaders talk about European birthrates with the same paternalism?” before adding, “It’s not as if there aren’t enough resources for African children, they’re simply being stolen.”
Macron conveniently overlooked the looting and exploitation but chose to call Africans uncivilized. This colonial master mentality he has is lost in the 21st century and needs to retrace its way back to the West’s dark history of exploitation and greed. There is no space for white saviours in the contemporary discourse.