Africa-France Summit

Africa-France summit: Macron courts African youths, diaspora, civil society

Le parc des expositions in Montpellier, where the Africa-France summit will be held on Friday, 8 October 2021.
Le parc des expositions in Montpellier, where the Africa-France summit will be held on Friday, 8 October 2021. © Wikimedia / Jonath841 - Travail personnel / CC BY-SA 3.0

Some 5,000 participants from civil society, arts and culture, entrepreneurs and youth activists are gathering for a one-day summit in the southern French town of Montpellier on Friday to discuss the presence and role of France on the African continent. The summit will be capped off by a round table with  the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and representatives from some of the organisations present.

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Cameroonian writer and staunch Macron critic Achille Mbembe has agreed to lead the dialogue with the French president, slated for the afternoon session. 

Macron asked Mbembe to play a supporting role in redefining the relationship between the African continent and France.

The themes for the conference stem from mini-debates piloted by Mbembe, a total of more than 60 workshops in 12 African countries.

Ultimately governance is popular theme, but other subjects like entrepreneurship or France’s role in the climate change debate acorss the continent are expected to create a lot of discussion.

Sports, particularly BMX, which will be introduced during the 2024 Paris Olympics, will also be one of the topics during the summit.

Francophone Africa

Those invited to the summit include the Francophone African diaspora, which Macron considers an important part of French identity, an aspect that that Mbembe was initially critical of, he tells RFI’s Christophe Boisbouvier.

“My criticism was designed to make sure that we put this relationship back into play and together to ry and rethink the fundamentals of the relationship-- that's what he says he wants to do,” says Mbembe.

Macron is banking on African youth and diaspora participation to create a wider dialogue with France.

In a change from previous summits, there will be no African heads of state.

According to Benoît Verdeaux, former diplomat and currently secretary general of the Montpellier Summit, the difference is that the average age of the participants is between 30 and 35 years-of-age,  and not the typical elderly statesmen.

When asked if the various coups d'etat in French-speaking Africa -- including Mali, Chad and Guinea-- could become the focal point of the summit, Verdeaux said he hopes for a lively debate among the young peole who have lived through these recent experiences.

“France's role in this is a real subject and there are sometimes serious misunderstandings that must be talked about in order to be able to overcome them,” he says.

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