By John Ikani
French President Emmanuel Macron went head to head with his far-right challenger Marine Le Pen over the country’s diminishing influence in Africa during their only televised debate.
Ms Le Pen brought it up as a way of criticising Mr Macron as being too Euro-centric and not global-minded.
“France has become a continental country. We are a global power, and we need to renew our ambitions of global influence working together with special partners particularly French-speaking countries in Africa, who are long standing partners of France. We need to restore our relationship with them,” she charged.
Mr Macron responded by highlighting his efforts to repair relations with former colonies and addressing the legacy of colonialism.
“I have been to Africa more than any of my predecessors. I value this relationship. I re-established it, I relaunched it and I’ve been honest and brave about our history,” he said.
“I don’t think that’s the case for you. They are stunned by what they hear you, I mean you want to ban the headscarves on the streets,” Mr Macron added.
French unpopularity in Africa has risen to levels not felt for decades.
This is despite Mr Macron’s efforts to increase aid, initiate return of cultural artefacts stolen during the colonial wars and reaching out to engage younger generations and the civil society.