France’s intimate relationship with Africa began in the 17th Century and, like other major European nations, ended after two consecutive World Wars. However, France stubbornly held on to territory in Morocco for years after the end of the wars; it was not until 1964, after a war nearly a decade long, that France relinquished its claim to the North African territory.
France’s Goals in Africa
Now, like other formal colonial powers, France has changed its goals in Africa. French foreign aid in Africa is now meant to help develop the world it left behind. In 2015, a representative from Oxfam France defended France’s bias to helping its former colonies “because the former French colonies in Africa are de facto the poorest countries in the world. There is a consistency in that decision.”
In 2009, France was the second largest donor of foreign aid in the world, only behind the United States. French foreign aid during these years was focused to two main areas — the Mediterranean Basin and Sub-Saharan Africa. French foreign aid in Africa was focused in five sectors: health, education, sustainable development, food security, and economic growth. In 2010, France was the third largest foreign aid donor.
It is also important to note that unlike other nations, France does not have one departement or governmental agency dedicated to the distribution of foreign aid; it instead relies on a multi-agency board to oversee its distribution.
Online Foreign Aid Resources
Due to the lack of a central agency to track French foreign aid in Africa, France launched a website to help citizens track projects. The website separates aid into eight different areas: environment and natural resources, agriculture and food security, outside sectors CICID, water and sanitation, education, productive sector, health and the fight against AIDS, infrastructure and urban development.
There is also an interactive map that allows anybody curious enough to look at projects in each of the 16 priority nations: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros Islands, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
French Agency for Development and Africa
An example of French foreign aid in Africa at work is the aid project currently underway in Madagascar. The French Agency for Development (AFD) has worked since 2013 in Madagascar to help locals live in harmony with the environment.
Slash-and-burn agriculture is still the most prominent technique for clearing forest, and the goal of this project is to help people learn other farming techniques to preserve the rainforest since using slash-and-burn agriculture in a society with a large population is not sustainable. Since December 2017, over 1.9 million euros have been spent on this particular project.
By simply clicking the water and sanitation tab, a user can find information about all French aid projects under this category. Of the 148 water and sanitation projects underway or completed, just over 120 of these projects are located in sub-saharan Africa. Projects range from improving water- and sanitation-provision infrastructure, to building entirely new systems. Maintaining old infrastructure is important as well, since poorly-kept human waste management systems can taint clean drinking water.
French foreign aid in Africa and around the world can be traced on the website. The map differentiates between three French foreign aid agencies, or societies, as they are referred to on the website. The largest is the aforementioned French Agency for Development, who leads the majority of these projects around the world.
According to the website, this organization is involved in over 2,500 projects in 108 different countries around the world. In 2016, the AFD hit the milestone of effectively using $9 million euros on over 600 different aid projects.
Due to political and public pressure, though, France slowly began fall behind on the list of the world’s top donors. In an act of compromise, France’s new President, Emmanuel Macron, has decided to once again increase France’s soft power footprint. In July of 2017, he announced that by 2022, .55 percent of the French GDP will be spent on foreign aid. This announcement was a U-turn on previous promises made by the President as a candidate.
GDP to Foreign Aid
OECD set a 0.7 percent of GDP goal for well-developed nations, and these countries are expected to reach this benchmark by 2030. According the the President, France is on the way to reach this goal. As more and more countries regain independent influence in the world, it will be important for France to show that it can compete if the nation wants to remain relevant on the international stage.
– Nick DeMarco