Even though European colonialism of Africa was practised by different countries, the ideologies behind the colonisation were generally similar. They wanted to expand the territorial size of their states, improve their economic prospects, learn about and conquer previously unknown parts of the world. They limited the rights of Africans, exported raw products from Africa and imported manufactured goods, traded in slaves and shipped large numbers of indigenous Africans to the New World, and imposed their cultures and religions on Africans.
The French took it one step further though. They wanted a complete assimilation of their territories into the French Republic, almost in the form of a Federation of sorts of French colonies. Under the mission civilisation policy, they basically sought to civilise tame and educate the local African people in French cultures and tradition. They taught their subjects that if they could adopt French language and culture, they would eventually become French citizens.
This is an incredible form of brainwashing. The British at least didn’t hide their quest for political and economic dominance – not that that made colonisation better – and when the colonies eventually rebelled against British rule and demanded independence, relatively cleaner breaks were achieved. Not so for the French colonies. When French colonies eventually demanded independence, it also came with agreements to maintain a relationship with France. Most signed Cooperation Accords with France; they still use the CFA franc, which is guaranteed by the French Treasury, as their currency and are home to French military bases. In fact, CFA countries have to deposit a percentage of their currency earnings in an account managed by French treasury and experts still disagree on whether the CFA agreements benefit France or the African nations.
No, this is not another sob story about the effects of colonialism. Last week, at a G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, President Marcon, the new darling boy of global politics answered a question about France’s plan of Africa by stating that Africa’s problem is a problem of civilisation, in part also blaming African women for having “seven or eight children”. It is incredibly deprecating for anybody to say that Africa’s problem is a problem of civilisation when countries like France played a crucial role in forever altering the destiny of the continent and when its effects are still being felt today. The economic fortunes of over a dozen African countries are still tied to France, and by extension, Europe; France still contributes to issues of state of some of its former colonies and has been previously accused of supporting dictators, while remaining silent on human rights issues; and some of its colonial practices still have lingering effects today – in some places, the Catholic church’s intransigence on contraceptives still makes it difficult for women to practice family planning.
There is much hope that Macron bucks the trend of previous French Presidents and acknowledges France’s role in shaping today’s Africa. He can begin by blaming the colonisation, slavery and imperialism for some of Africa’s problems, instead of attacking our mothers.
WRITER: FERDINAND SENAM HASSAN