Macron celebrated American and African veterans who took part in crucial but often-overlooked World War II landings on the Riviera. He participated on Thursday, August 15 in the ceremony of the 75th anniversary of the landing in Provence, in Saint-Raphaël (Var).
“The vast majority of the soldiers of the greatest force of the French army of the liberation came from Africa: French of North Africa, Pieds Noirs, tirailleurs Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian, Zouaves, Spahis, Goumiers. Tirailleurs which were called Senegalese but actually came from all over Sub-Saharan Africa, and among them Guineans, Ivorians. And yet who of us today remembers their name, their faces?”
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara and Guinea President Alpha Conde also took part in the event to represent the 20 former French colonies.
Some 350 000 US and French troops landed on the Mediterranean coast for Operation Dragoon, intended to coincide with the D-Day invasion in Normandy in June but was delayed due to a lack of resources.
Chinese investments in Africa had meanwhile reached 37,4 billion euros in 2016, against about 7 billion for France, currently relegating the former colonial power into Africa’s sixth trading partner.
Even Germany has beaten France in terms of exports to Africa amounting to 8,3 billion euros as opposed to 5,6 billion euros for France.
China and the United Arab Emirates are already ranked first and second, respectively, in levels of investment. France’s trade with Africa has remained heavily focused on commodities, with over 80 percent of France’s $8,5 billion of imports in 2016 coming from sub-Saharan African countries.
It plans to increase its aid to the continent to 20 billion euros in 2019. The top five recipients of French official development assistance in 2016 were Morocco, Jordan, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, and Egypt.
Notably, however is that among European countries, France has the highest levels of military engagement with the continent. After independence, France signed defense agreements with countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, Djibouti, Gabon, Senegal, Cameroon, and Comoros. It recently reinforced its ground troops in the Central African Republic, stationed there since 2008 as part of an operation to train local soldiers and it has been active in Chad since 1986.
Thus, France still has numerous military bases located from western Senegal to the Horn of Africa.
As of 2008, 2,3 million immigrants in France were from an African country and at least 14 players on the 2018 FIFA World Cup winning French team were of African descent. The country boasts more than 100 million French speakers on the continent.