This week African leaders are attending a summit in Nice, France. Press coverage of the event so far has mostly emphasized political and economic themes, with a little World Cup joshing mixed in. Interestingly for me, several outlets featured photos of French President Sarkozy and Nigerian President Jonathan shaking hands. I’ve heard a lot of conversations in recent months about how Nigeria lost some of its regional influence during the long illness of late President Yar’Adua. If Jonathan is the “face of Africa” for this summit, that could indicate that Nigeria is “back on top” in the eyes of the international community.
Reuters covers the main political news coming out of the summit:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday Africa should be represented on the U.N. Security Council, promising to back reforms when France takes the helm of the G8 and G20 groups of big economies next year…African nations have asked for two rotating permanent seats since 2005, given the continent has about 27 percent of members at the United Nations, its size and the involvement of global powers on its territory.
And the BBC describes the economic interests at stake in the meeting:
France aims to give a new push to business ties with Africa at a two-day summit opening in the Mediterranean city of Nice…The military junta leaders of two former French colonies – Guinea and Niger – are among those attending. France is vying with China and other emerging powers for markets in Africa.
Vanguard/All Africa have a little more on Jonathan’s participation in the summit:
The Nigerian Ambassador to France, Mr Gordon Harry Bristol said there could not have been a better time for Nigeria to make maximum impact as the giant of Africa by putting up the best outing at the Summit. The Nigeria Embassy in Paris has temporarily relocated to Nice, to give the visiting President the very best of reception and preparation for the talks.
And finally, Sanou Mbaye offers a less-than-enthusiastic take on the France-Africa relationship, past and present.
I’m still learning about the dynamics of how France and Africa interact, but within my limited base of knowledge it’s interesting to me to compare France’s approach with the approaches of the US and China to Africa. Maybe this is simplistic, but it seems to me that
- the US makes its political concerns about Africa very explicit while giving less emphasis to its economic interests in Africa;
- China has clear economic interests in Africa but downplays its political involvement there;
- and France acknowledges both political and economic interests on the continent.
Again, those statements might be too broad. Still, at the very least we can all likely agree that the “West” is not monolithic when it comes to Africa policies. What do you think? And how does Britain fit into the equation?