French ambassador to SA, Aurélien Lechevallier | The need to renew bonds between Africa and France

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French ambassador to South Africa Aurélien Lechevallier
French ambassador to South Africa Aurélien Lechevallier

Africa and France have a complicated history and a dark history in many ways. Ambassador of France to South Africa, Aurélien Lechevallier writes that to truly move forward, there needs to be an open discussion of the raw, complex issues, which have often been ignored.

The Africa- France summits date back decades, with a string of Heads of State from France and the African continent meeting since the first edition in 1973. This year's Africa-France Summit was initially scheduled to take place in June 2020 in Bordeaux, on schedule as the next French edition after the summit in Mali in 2017.

But in 2020, the world stopped. And then the world changed. 

The devastation brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic not only highlighted the serious challenges and glaring inequalities in the world but also forced us to think differently, and now - to do differently.

That is why the new Africa-France Summit in Montpellier on 8 October is happening in a radically new format. This time, we want to give a voice to people on the ground who embody the relationship between Africa and France on a daily basis. The artists, the researchers, the athletes, the students, the business people, and most importantly, the young people.

Aim is to build an equal partnership

Without Heads of State, the Summit will be devoted to the people of Africa and France who are dedicated to renewing our relationship, including the African diaspora in France. The aim is to build an equal partnership with the African continent that can celebrate its rich diversity, tap into its immense potential and empower its talented youth.

There is no denying that Africa and France have a complicated history and a dark history in many ways. We understand that to truly move forward, we've had to openly discuss the raw, complex issues, which have often been ignored.

READ | SA can't be insular in its relationships with Francophone countries warns intellectual

I am incredibly honoured to be attending as the Ambassador of France to South Africa, with 27 South African participants, one of the largest delegation. The participation of this diverse and significant group is proof of our broader vision for our partnership with the whole of the African continent. The visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to South Africa this year also showed our commitment to this process. 

A process that started in 2017 when President Macron set out his ambition to renew this relationship through several commitments in a speech in Ouagadougou. This summit will be an opportunity to take stock of progress on the main priorities set out in his address, including education, mobility, governance and economic development. 

Not an easy process

Friday's plenary session discussions will take place between President Macron and a group of young African and French talents. Prof. Achille Mbembe, from Wits University, will also present his report on the results of the Africa France Dialogues, a continental discussion organised since the beginning of 2021 across Africa. Again, South Africa was one of the 12 countries that hosted the crucial debates on these topics that helped shape this report.

We understand this has not an easy process, and of course, there is still a long road ahead. This is clear from Prof. Mbembe's message, who described the three significant aspirations that emerged in particular from the debates: one aspiration for freedom and democracy, another for mobility, and finally another for dignity and recognition. 

We want to honour these aspirations when we announce concrete proposals and initiatives to mark the end of this summit and start a new journey towards our renewed relationship. 

Aurélien Lechevallier, Ambassador of France to South Africa.

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