French President Macron Under Fire Over Africa ‘Civilization’ Comments

France's President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference after the G-20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, Saturday, July 8, 2017, where the leaders of the group of 20 met for two days. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

France’s President Emmanuel Macron is taking flak after calling problems in Africa “civilizational” at the G20 Summit in Germany.

Macron was answering a question from a Cote d’Ivoire journalist, who asked why there was no Marshall Plan for Africa (a huge block of U.S. economic aid for European countries after World War II). He said: “The challenge of Africa is completely different, it is much deeper. It is civilizational today. Failing states, complex democratic transitions, the demographic transition … One of the essential challenges of Africa … is that in some countries today seven or eight children (are) born to each woman.”

Watch an excerpt of his response in French…

In June this year, Macron was criticized when he joked about the makeshift craft that have been dubbed the “boats of death” because so many have sunk while transporting migrants to the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte. This was shortly after his election victory, watched closely by millions of Africans, because any French president remains a pivotal figure in about 20 former French colonies on the continent.

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allAfrica’s Michael Tantoh watched a video of the exchange, posted on Youtube, and this is his understanding of what Macron said:

The Marshall Plan is a plan for material reconstruction in countries that had their balance. The challenges of Africa are much deeper, it is civilizational. Several envelopes have been given. For decades, Marshall plans for Africa have been promised and given. If it were that simple, you would have noticed it results by now.  What are the problems in Africa? Failed states, complex democratic transitions, demographic transition, infrastructure, porous borders which poses a problems of security and regional coordination, Drugs trafficking, arms trafficking, human trafficking, trafficking in cultural property and violent fundamentalism, Islamist terrorism. All these together creates difficulties in Africa.  At the same time, we have countries that are tremendously successful, with an extraordinary growth rate that makes people say that Africa is a land of opportunity.
Of great importance is the demographical challenge. When countries still have 7 to 8 children per woman, you can decide to spend billions of euros, you will not acheive stabilization. So if we want a coherent response to Africa then Africans must develop a series of policies that are far more sophisticated than a simple Marshall plan and accumulated billions. Wherever the private sector can get involved, it has to get involved and we have to guide it. We are pleased with the World Bank in terms of critical infrastructure, education, health. There is a need for public funding and it is within this framework that we must act. It is our responsibility. In terms of security, we need to act in tandem with African regional organizations. This is what France does with Operation Barkhane in the Sahel, but more broadly through what we set up last Sunday with G5 Sahel: Development, security.
There is a shared responsibility. The Marshall Plan you want for Africa is also a plan that will be supported by African governments and regional organizations.  It is through rigorous governance, the fight against corruption, a successful demographic transition that we can succeed. The transformation plan that we must lead together must take into account African specificities by and with African Heads of State. It is a plan that must take into account our own commitments on all the projects that I have just mentioned, create better public and private partnerships and must be done in a much more regional, sometimes even national basis. That is the method that has been adopted and that is what we are doing everywhere we are committed.


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