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    Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian Kabore and French President Emmanuel Macron review troops during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

    Macron's African Tour: Fresh Start or 'Colonial' Business as Usual?

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    Paris is seeking to establish closer working ties with its former colonies in West Africa. Speaking to Sputnik, some African observers characterized French President Emmanuel Macron's African tour as a sign of "transition" in relations, while others insist that Africa needs to gain independence from French dominance.

    French President Emmanuel Macron has embarked on a three-day tour to visit Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast and Ghana in order to present a new model of relations with the continent based on "education, investment and business development." Still, critics say that Macron's strategy is new in name only.

    "Every time a new president is elected in France, he comes to Africa and delivers a speech, promising that relations would change. [African] small and medium-sized businesses do not need assistance. What we need is independence," Ouiry Sanou of the Democratic Youth Organization (ODJ) of Burkina Faso told Sputnik France.

    Macron is a 'Representative of French Imperialism'

    The continent's student associations and trade unions cite the fact that Paris' repeated promises to modernize Franco-African relations have yet to be fulfilled.

    According to Ouiry Sanou, only those students and journalists who "endorse France's policy" are allowed to meet with the French president, while all the questions for Macron have been prepared in advance.

    He specified that the reporters have the right to ask only one question. As for the students, the administration carefully recorded their personal information: surname, name, date of birth, passport data.

    Commenting on the Ministry of Education's decision to close all educational institutions on November 27 and 28, the Burkina Faso activist asked rhetorically: "Imagine that [President of Burkina Faso] Roch Marc Christian Kabore comes to France and the French authorities decide to close the schools. Is this what you call independence?"

    Ouiry Sanou argues that this is just the way to silence the country's protesters. Still, Macron's entourage insist that "no issue will be ignored by the [French] president" during his African tour.

    "Does Emmanuel Macron have to help young entrepreneurs in Burkina Faso get back on their feet? Is this really his job? Why does not he do this in France?" the activist asked. "It is quite obvious to us that he is the representative of the French imperialism."

    To illustrate his point Ouiry Sanou focused attention on Bolloré, a French transportation company which still owns 67 percent of the shares in the Sitarail concession.

    Sitarail links Ivory Coast's port of Abidjan with cities in landlocked Burkina Faso. However, the railway between the two countries has not been repaired yet although the company pledged to do it almost two years ago. The activist explained that the railroad was privatized and given to Bolloré twenty years ago, adding that the French transportation group still maintains control over it.

    In this Monday Jan. 18, 2016 file photo, a soldier stands guard outside the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
    © AP Photo / Sunday Alamba
    In this Monday Jan. 18, 2016 file photo, a soldier stands guard outside the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

    Macron's Visit Marks 'Transition From Colonial Economy to Inclusive Approach'

    For his part, Kako Nubukpo, former minister of Long-term Strategy and Public Policy Evaluation of Togo, welcomes Macron's endeavor, saying that the French president's visit marks a "transition" from "the economy of the [colonial] empire based on relations established in the times of France-Africa and dominance of large companies and French monopolists to a more inclusive approach towards African states' economy."

    At the same time, the former Togolese official pointed out that "in francophone African countries, all loans are [still] issued at a double-digit interest rate" which pose a tremendous challenge to young African entrepreneurs.

    Speaking to Sputnik, Nubukpo stressed the necessity to establish a "link" between transnational companies and African small and medium-sized businesses: "It would be good if loans were allocated specifically for small and medium-sized businesses within the framework of business support, such as the French Agency for Development (AFD)," he said, adding that France needs to establish mutually beneficial relations with the African youth.

    On the other hand, the situation around the CFA franc also raises questions. According to the former minister, the use of the currency creates conditions "for the accumulation of capital outside the CFA franc zone."

    Although this practice "is not illegal," it allows large companies and the leadership of African countries to withdraw money from the continent, forcing the African economies to begin a new cycle of capitalization every year, "while every twenty-five years the population doubles," Nubukpo underscored.

    Meanwhile, citing Radio France International, Reuters wrote Tuesday that a grenade was thrown at French soldiers injuring three civilians in the Burkina Faso capital "just hours before Macron was due to speak before a university audience at Ouagadougou."

    It was also reported that Macron's convoy was attacked with stones, however, later the French president's office denied the reports saying that stones were thrown at one of the vehicles transporting members of a delegation accompanying Macron in Burkina Faso.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    economic development, colonialism, economy, Emmanuel Macron, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Africa, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, France
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