For the past five years, Pierre De Gaétan Njikam Mouliom, deputy mayor of Bordeaux in charge of partnerships with sub-Saharan Africa, has been organizing the National African Diaspora Day in Bordeaux. Beyond putting the spotlight on the Diasporas’ talents, JNDA invites to rethink Franco-African relations. A few days before the presidential election, we asked him about the future of France-Africa.
Interview in Bordeaux, by Ghizlaine Badri
Before discussing France-Africa relations of tomorrow, what is your view of Francois Hollande’s “African” balance sheet?
One must be both reasonable, at the limit of objectivity, and severe if necessary. To be reasonable, Francois Hollande was congratulated for all his achievements in terms of security, and by the Africans themselves. The Africans unanimously acknowledged the successful military action and defense and training capacity building actions by the cooperation services.
On the other hand, other projects to which he was committed had not been implemented. On African youth, with the first France-Africa summit, with regard to governance and respect for human rights, today’s assessment of democratic governance in Africa remains incomplete. There is a malaise of African civil societies, about France’s political action. The French community to Africa did not feel supported, and felt to be suffering from discrimination and inequality at several levels. As for the African and French community to Africa, during the five-year mandate, the Diaspora has not been heard. In terms of training and welcome of African students, they have been slightly improved, apart from that, Laurent Fabius, who has embarked on economic diplomacy towards the end of the five-year mandate, and is on the right way.
Africa was present during the presidential campaign, is this bad omen?
It is really regrettable that a country like France, devotes little interest to the French-speaking world, including Africa. At the time of the primary elections, the African issue was not at the heart of the campaign. All candidates treated Africa only in a biased way in relation to migration flows and humanitarian aid issues. It means, a campaign is a moment of construction, the economic and social players would have put Africa at the center of the elections, but for political tactics reasons, other issues were put forward during the elections such as the European issue, the relationship with the USA, Russia, and Syria. Africa went by, and we felt it was a minor issue, while security problems and the development of this geographically-close continent are paramount. The issue of social cohesion in France is intimately linked to Africa. It is also Africa in France.
In fact, for the last five years, you have been organizing the JNDA in Bordeaux, or you are honoring the African Diaspora. The underlying idea is to boost the relations between France and Africa, relying on African Diasporas…
I am convinced that in recent years a new social and economic player has emerged. The Diaspora will seriously impact French policy. In an approach to advocacy and presence, informing African societies is paramount. It is an emerging player of the two. In all these countries, the governments have realized that this is useful, and the French political community here is really aware of the importance of the African Diaspora. There should be an African consciousness, and I believe that this consciousness is becoming thicker and creating the conditions likely to facilitate its establishment.
From Bordeaux already, France-Africa relations are renewed. What’s the results?
The African policy of Bordeaux is ancient, for there have always been ties for centuries, at the economic, cultural and human level. A crucial point took place in the 2000s: the establishment of relations with Oran, Casablanca, Douala and Ouagadougou. In 2014, there was a crucial point in the new mandate: strengthen this link through the creation of a specific delegation to establish partnerships with Africa. Africa is a geographical priority, we just had to review Bordeaux politics in the time of Africa, i.e. to target young people, and young entrepreneurs, and then create the African Woman Day. Bordeaux is French Tech, health, training of executives with Political sciences, we have a program that welcomes secondary school students, and for the entrepreneurs, they spend several weeks in Bordeaux to share skills.
The relationship with Africa is therefore not only seen under the prism of French economic interests. Yet this is the trend in Paris. Do you think MEDEF dictates the French African policy?
No! I don’t think so. It is an organization that brings the voices of these members, and puts the concerns of a number of companies on the African agenda. But Africa has not waited for MEDEF to develop a private sector that creates value in the continent. The legal and economic environment is improving. Above all, the civil society does not expect its salvation from elsewhere.