Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences


Modern Languages and Literatures

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Daniel Mengara

Committee Member

Lois Oppenheim

Committee Member

Rabia Redouane


In preparation of his 2007 presidential campaign, Nicolas Sarkozy made two important speeches, one in Bamako (Mali) and the other in Cotonou (Benin), in which he made controversial comments that called into question the historical relations between France and its former colonies (Glaser and Smith, Sarko 30-31). Well-known for his outspokenness, lack of modesty and tact, Sarkozy did not miss the opportunity to irritate African public opinion and media. At the debate which followed his speech in Bamako on May 18th, 2006, a Malian journalist, Sadio Kante, condemned and rebuked France for the plundering of African resources. To these objections, Mr. Sarkozy retorted that “Economically France does not need Africa. The exchanges between France and Africa account only for 2% of our economy” (Tobner 11). Hence the subject matter of this work, which will explore this very controversial declaration and engage into a discussion of its impact on France-Africa, both historically and contemporaneously.

Specifically, the main objective of this study is to analyze the history of economic relations between France and the African continent with a view to showing that, contrary to Nicholas Sarkozy’s affirmations, France, just as it did in the past, continues and will continue to rely on its economic ties with Africa.

In the first part of this work, we show the importance, in France’s economy, of the enslavement of the Africans from the 16th to the 19th century (Cohen 140, 58). This critical look at France’s slave industry will also highlight the various, and enormous, economic advantages that France drew from being one of the greatest colonial empires in Africa, not only during the colonial period, but also during the era of decolonization that followed the end of World War II (Comevin 278,342; Deschamps, Hist 84-86).

In the second part, we will essentially look at the post-colonial period and focus on the “Françafrique” phenomenon which, according to François-Xavier Verschave, has consisted in the criminal perpetuation and promotion, by all means possible, of France s neocolonial dominion - both political and economic - over its former colonies (Verschave, La Françafrique le plus long scandale 175). The negative effects of this informal and secretive policy on Francophone African economies, its stunting impact on the democratic evolution of the continent, the contrast between French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s stated “rupture” policy meant to break away from the paternalist and neocolonial attitudes of the past, including its lot of personalized relationships with African dictators, and the reality of his not-soruptured governance in both foreign and domestic affairs, are all themes that will be tackled in this section (Foutoyet 69-87; Glaser and Smith, Sarko186-92).

The final part of this work will concentrate on a contrastive analysis of the evolution of the structure of trade between France, its former colonies in Africa and the rest of the world. This approach will enable us to evaluate Africa’s contribution to, and importance for, the French economy as compared to other geographical areas of the world; it will, in addition, allow us to look at the particular situation of Algeria, the oldest and historically most important French colony, as well as premier economic partner of France in Africa (France-Diplomatie). The impact of globalization on Franco-Affican economic relations, especially as it pertains to France’s market-share losses in the face of increasing competition not only from the United States, but also, and above all, China and India, on its traditional areas of economic monopoly, will also be a focus of this section. We shall conclude this part with an argument on why, beyond the continent s contributions on the preservation of France’s aura in international organizations such as the United Nations, and its influential role in the propagation of the French language and culture around the world, Nicolas Sarkozy’s statement that France does not need Africa economically is fundamentally misleading and, even, antinomic to the reality of France-Affica relations since France’s imperial intrusions on the continent (Glaser and Smith, Comment 21-24).

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