France’s decline in Africa: what’s next? – .

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France’s decline in Africa: what’s next? – .


The emergence of new worthy competitive players has opened up space for North African countries to abandon Paris and mobilize new partners.

French influence is eroding over the North African region. Since the 19th century, French colonization had resulted in a monopolized sphere of influence in North Africa. The region remained very dependent on Paris economically, culturally and strategically after World War II, but the newly independent states established cautious relations with Paris until 2000.

France’s attempts to maintain deep relations have proved futile. Despite the attempts to appease Paris, French colonization and misconduct towards the region still weigh heavily on relations between the countries.

Yet it’s not just French colonization and the ineffective policy behind the decoupling of North African states from France. Although relations have seen their ups and downs, countries in the region have maintained bilateral relations. What is remarkable is that France never witnessed a backlash from the region until 2000.

However, over the past two decades, North African states have sent a different message to France. Algiers recently closed its airspace to the French army and recalled its ambassador to France due to Macron’s misconduct; Rabat changed its strategic ties to find a new role within the Atlantic Association with the UK and the US; Tripoli revealed the blatant involvement of France in Libya; Tunis has changed to have the economic, financial and security support of the United States.

How to explain the erosion of the links between France and the Maghreb states?

Global geopolitical change

The strategy of the United States within the unipolar system marked the geopolitical decline of Washington. After 1990, the US strategy of globalization, modernization and liberalism (free market) created a huge rift in the existing world order. This gave new players – primarily Russia and China – the momentum to step up in the system and challenge the United States in different spheres.

After September 11, the American counterterrorism strategy through AFRICOM (United States Africa Command) undermined French strategic influence. Some of these countries have moved away from French strategic dependence by working with the United States in their missions.

France’s strategy focused on the fight against terrorism to the detriment of its economic strategy has also opened up space for regional powers to forge economic links with North Africa.

New players

As a global player, China has intensified its economic and strategic ties with North Africa over the past two decades. In addition to strategic relations with certain countries, China’s economic ambition could lead all North African states to join the Beijing Belt and Road initiative; North African countries have taken steps to diversify their trade and investment.

Unlike China, Russia has maintained its stable political, economic and strategic ties with Algeria alone. Russia’s current influence in Libya is quite different from that of the Gaddafi era, and political resolve in the country will determine Moscow’s future relationship with Tripoli. Tunisia has stable economic ties with Russia, but strategic ties are far away and Morocco is already in a critical diplomatic crisis.

At the regional level, Turkey has enabled North African states to take advantage of new economic, political and strategic ties. As a Mediterranean country, the ascendancy of Turkey also offered a significant alternative to the states of North Africa. Yet despite its strong relationship with Libya, Ankara’s strategic ties in the region are not on the same level as Russia, France and the United States; its trade ties are also not as strong as those of China.

Paradoxically, although Russia and China are the main competitors of any power in North Africa, France is the most troubled by Turkish involvement.

Besides access to a vast market, the strong military and energy relations between Ankara and African capitals also mean a potential shift in Mediterranean geopolitics in the long term – in favor of Ankara.

The Turkish-Libyan agreement on the EEZ jeopardizes French influence in the Mediterranean. On the economic front, apart from the Turkish-African trade exchange, which amounted to 25 billion dollars in 2020, Ankara has signed partnership agreements with Tunisia and a free trade agreement with Morocco. Ankara has signed seven cooperation agreements in different fields (construction, textiles, energy and others) with Algeria. In addition, Turkish non-hydrocarbon investments in Algeria outperformed French investments.

Algeria is Ankara’s fourth gas supplier and is cooperating in establishing a petrochemical plant in Turkey. In Libya, Ankara seeks to exploit Libyan oil and gas.

Turkey concluded a strategic agreement with Algeria in 2003. In 2017, Tunisia signed a memorandum of understanding with Ankara in the field of military training. Turkish support for the UN-recognized government with drones has hampered Haftar in Libya, and recently Morocco is preparing to acquire Turkish drones.

Finally, France’s links with North Africa are deteriorating with the rise of new rivals. France can be expected to revise its ineffective policies, but it will be difficult for Paris to regain its former influence over the region.

North Africa must strive to overcome French influence by relying on new and existing partners and by forging deep strategic, economic and cultural links with cooperative and deserving countries that wish to participate in the development of Europe. Africa. States should take into account their national interests and establish links with partners accordingly.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, views and editorial policies of TRT World.

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