During his official visit to Senegal on 12 October 2012, French President François Hollande delivered in Dakar a speech to the National Assembly of this country. It was mostly dedicated to his vision of the future of relations between Africa and France and to the principles which should drive them.
Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, to the National Assembly of Senegal - Dakar, 12 October 2012. (English translation from French Presidency website)
Mr President of the National Assembly,
Members of the Government,
Members of Parliament,
Members of the diplomatic corps,
Ladies and gentlemen,
You’ve done me an honour by inviting me to speak in your National Assembly. I see it as doubly symbolic. It symbolizes firstly the vitality of your democracy, and secondly the special bond uniting our two countries.
My visit here, to Dakar, is my first to Africa since I was elected President of the French Republic. This is the choice of history. But above all it’s the choice of the future.
The history we share is proud, turbulent and cruel. It’s a history that has left us a common language, but also a common political culture: democracy.
I’m thinking right now of Blaise Diagne and his successors, who took an active part in the work of the French Parliament after the war. I’m thinking of Léopold Sedar Senghor, who was a member of not only the French government but also the committee tasked in 1958 with considering and drawing up the Fifth Republic’s constitution. So I’m doubly indebted to you.
Along with your Senegalese representatives, you’ve contributed to the French Republic and even to the constitution that allows me to be Head of State today.
Our history is also that of brotherhood, of struggles fought together. France remembers that in 1914 and 1940, she was able to rely on the support of many Senegalese people who enlisted or were conscripted under the tricolore flag, and whose courage enabled our country to be what it is today.
Twice in the course of the last century, African blood was shed for the world’s freedom. I shall never forget it.
This history, our history, also has its dark side. Like all nations, France is greater when she looks clear-sightedly at her past. This afternoon I shall be on the Ile de Gorée with President Macky Sall to honour the memory of the victims of slavery and the African slave trade, in the presence of elected representatives from Overseas France whom I wanted to be alongside me. We must find out, teach and learn every lesson from the history of slavery so that the exploitation of human beings can be fought as robustly as possible, because we share the very idea of humanity. At the House of Slaves, which looks onto the Atlantic Ocean, I’ll not only pay my respects to history – to those men, women and children taken away by force to be slaves – I’ll also commit myself to upholding human dignity wherever it’s violated, and you’ll be alongside me in that struggle.
The other dark side of our history is the massacre at the Thiaroye camp in 1944, which caused the deaths of 35 African soldiers who had nevertheless fought for France. So I’ve decided to give Senegal all the archives France has about this tragedy, so that they can be exhibited at the memorial museum.
But the best, even the surest reason for my being here is that I want to talk to you about the future. Senegal’s future and Africa’s future. Senegal, your country, your Republic, sets an example. The first three Senegalese presidents all managed, in their different ways, to pass on the flame to their successors, enabling your country – and you should be proud of it – to carry out successful, peaceful handovers of power.
Your Assembly, where I’m speaking today, is one of the only ones on the continent to have exercised its rights in full, without interruption, since independence.
And when I see before me the number of women here representing the Senegalese people – a proportion that’s doubled since the last elections – it’s truly humbling, because in France we haven’t yet reached your level, even though there’s been some progress. That’s what brings us together, ladies and gentlemen deputies. Respect for human rights, equality before the law, guaranteed changeovers of power, the rights of minorities, the dignity of women, religious freedom: all these universal values have deep roots in your country and must flourish throughout Africa.
I haven’t come here to Dakar to set an example, impose a model or teach a lesson. I consider Africans to be partners and friends. Friendship creates duties, the first of which is honesty. I want to talk to them freely, directly, without interfering but insistently.
Democracy is its own justification, everywhere. No country, no continent can be deprived of it. But it’s also valid because of what it enables, what it contributes. There’s no real economic development or real social progress without democracy.
I have a deep-seated belief: if Africa, the cradle of humanity, can manage to live democracy and make it a reality, everywhere and for everyone, if it can successfully overcome its divisions, then Africa will be the continent where the very future of the planet will be played out. Africa is in the grip of unprecedented demographic momentum: the population south of the Sahara will double in the space of 40 years, reaching nearly two billion women and men by 2050. The number of inhabitants will have increased tenfold in a century: that’s a change without any equivalent in all the history of humanity. Africa is the youth of the world.
It’s also a land of the future for the global economy. Growth in Africa is higher than much of the growth in so-called developed countries; in recent years, it’s constantly quickened in pace and is enabling you – even though it’s difficult – to gain access to new markets and new products. The infrastructure needs are considerable. The quality of Africa’s agriculture, its natural resources, its mineral wealth: this continent is excellently placed to be, tomorrow, the continent of growth, development and progress. There’s extraordinary potential in Africa. Its farm workers, artisans, students, entrepreneurs and scholars are a tremendous resource for your future.
The large countries are turning towards Africa and investing heavily. You mustn’t be afraid of this new interest. You can mistrust it: there may be predators. You must be aware that your institutions, your practices, your abilities will enable you to guide and direct this capital to your own advantage.
Allow me to speak frankly. Your challenge is to strengthen your continent’s role in globalization. It’s to give this world a more human purpose, to take your place, to shoulder your responsibility. No global challenge can be tackled without Africa. All the essential responses already involve your continent: the economy, raw materials, the environment, energy, global governance. In all the great international negotiations on these issues, France and Europe, but also Africa, share the same vision of the future.
I make a promise to you here: in those great negotiations taking place today on trade, the climate and economic issues, you are our main partner and France will be your chief ally. The duty of a country like mine is to support you in the areas of the future: not only natural resources but also the food industry, telecommunications and services.
It’s the Africa of tomorrow I’m focusing on; it’s the Africa of tomorrow that I’ve come to see here in Senegal.
Change will come first and foremost from the people. Africans have taken control of their destiny, and this movement won’t stop. Each country in Africa experiences its own surges and sometimes setbacks. Each country adapts its institutions to its situation. Each country suffers unrest over the borders left by colonization. But beyond all this turbulence, I have confidence. Africa is on the move, and the principles it can base its development on are the very ones you embody here in Senegal.
The first of these principles I subscribe to is transparency. You’re right to demand that all the companies which come to invest or occupy positions in your country must be transparent and be called to account whenever necessary.
The second principle is good governance. It’s a precondition for stability, security and probity. That’s why I commend President Sall’s initiative of launching an operation to recover ill-gotten gains. France will never stand in the way of this. The fight against corruption, financial abuses and impunity does not just concern Africa, it concerns everyone. We must be uncompromising with anyone who thinks they are authorized to steal from their own countries’ pockets, but also implacable against those who come to seek contracts by exploiting all forms of pressure and influence.
The third principle is equality, because although Africa is developing at a good pace, although its growth is particularly dynamic, the number of poor people is continuing to increase as the population itself rises. Nearly half the countries on the continent are on the way to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and that’s a source of pride for you. But too many are still falling by the wayside. Both for you and for us, for Senegal and for France, the issue of inequality is central to what our peoples are expecting of us.
And particularly women, who are a tremendous force for change and transformation in Africa. More of them are getting involved in economic and social life than in the past; they play a major role in relation to African young people, who will soon make up two-thirds of the continent’s population.
That’s what I wanted to express to you: confidence in you, pride in what you’ve already accomplished, openness to others and certainty that you’re on the right path and that Africa is a continent of the future. But at the same time I’m fully conscious of the threats you face and the dangers surrounding you.
I’m thinking in particular of Mali, the victim of extremist groups that spread terror in the north. Your security is at stake; ours is too – that of Europe, which knows the inestimable value of the peace for which, this very day, it’s been awarded the Nobel Prize.
This Europe which has made peace and makes peace, this Europe must also make peace and want peace in Africa whenever there’s a conflict and terrorism. It will support you. But it’s you Africans who will be responsible for deciding what’s good for your own security. Africa’s future will be built by strengthening Africans’ ability to handle by themselves the crises the continent experiences.
Organizations such as ECOWAS and the African Union have taken centre stage in dealing with a number of conflicts. That’s very encouraging. The involvement of Africa’s armies in peacekeeping, as Blue Helmets, is proof of it. I’m thinking of the bravery of those Burundians, Djiboutians, Ethiopians, Kenyans and Ugandans who are paying a high price to liberate Somalia. I pay tribute here to the Senegalese soldiers involved in difficult peacekeeping operations in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, the DRC and Sudan. Thank you, Senegal. What must bring us together today is the crisis in the occupied and desecrated north of Mali. We know its causes, and they are many: the Mafia-like practices of the terrorist groups, the mistakes made at the end of the intervention in Libya – especially the lack of control over weapons – and the drug trafficking that has corrupted part of the Malian economy and also, as we’re well aware, threatens much of West Africa. A lack of economic development in the Sahel has also fuelled despair. I know all that – including the failure to implement effectively the agreements reached, which should have led to harmonious coexistence between Mali’s communities.
But are we here to conduct analyses, to try to understand, or to shoulder our responsibilities? The current horrors can’t go on. How can we tolerate the desecration of tombs, the severing of hands, the rape of women? How can we tolerate children being forcibly conscripted by militias, or terrorists coming to the region to spread terror elsewhere later? As I’ve also said, France, through her citizens in the region, has been attacked.
Mali is appealing to the international community and asking for support. We must lend it to her, along with ECOWAS and the African Union. The United Nations Organization – at our initiative as well as that of many European countries – is now ready to provide a legal basis too. As I speak, a Security Council resolution is being discussed. It’ll enable us to give a legal framework to what the Africans themselves decide to initiate.
I’ve spoken to you about your future, your abilities and your assets. About the threats too. And your responsibilities.
But I now want to express to you my determination to update the relationship between France and Africa.
The age of what was once called “Françafrique” is over. There’s France and there’s Africa. There’s the partnership between France and Africa, with relations based on respect, clarity and solidarity. Clarity means simplicity in our state-to-state relationships. Envoys, intermediaries and agencies now find the doors to the French Presidency and all the ministries closed.
There’s clarity in the make-up of the government I formed, and in the decision I took to replace the Ministry of Cooperation with the office of the Minister for Development, attached to the Quai d’Orsay, signalling my strong belief that we must tackle humanity’s great challenges together: climate change, disease, mutually-supportive development. In short, what counts today and what’s expected of France isn’t cooperation, it’s development.
Respect also means being frank. And it must be mutual. I won’t fall into the trap of indulgence, and I don’t expect any in return from Africa, either. We must tell each other everything: what we think, what we believe, what’s useful.
This honesty applies in particular to respect for fundamental values: media freedom, the independence of the judiciary, the protection of minorities – because without the rule of law the state can’t function normally, companies can’t make lasting investments and there can be no peace in society. We must be particularly committed to opposing violence: violence against children, violence against women, violence against displaced persons. That’s the message we French and Africans must convey.
Respect means a crystal clear definition of France’s military presence in Africa, which can continue only in a legal, transparent framework. So the defence agreement between France and Senegal has recently been reviewed. It’ll be quickly ratified in our two countries, our two parliaments. The same will apply everywhere, and these defence agreements will no longer contain secret clauses. I’ll see it through, because I also want to learn every lesson from the crises we must tackle or have experienced. We don’t need forces stationed in Africa: we need reaction forces, capable of adapting and providing a response rather than merely a presence. France’s new defence policy will be defined in this spirit.
I’ve spoken to you about clarity; I’ve spoken to you about respect. I want to speak to you about solidarity.
Solidarity means development.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the top priority of France’s policy because it accounts for more than half our budgetary outlay. My country is particularly active in defending Africa’s interests in the multilateral institutions. But the Franco-African partnership cannot and must not be the sole preserve of states.
So – more than today – it’ll involve NGOs, local authorities and all those entrepreneurs who want to take part with civil society in what we have to do together. We must put an end to those state-to-state relations that ignore people and societies.
Solidarity also means going to seek new financing – what I call innovative financing – in order to find new resources and put them at the service of future projects.
At European level, a financial transaction tax will soon be in place in 11 countries. France will devote 10% of the proceeds of this tax to development and fighting the pandemics that devastate your continent. I’m thinking of malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. With this financial transaction tax, we’re going to set an example once again, an example of what we can do to limit the influence of finance, an example of what we must do to put resources at the service of development.
Solidarity can’t simply be a matter of finance and trade in material resources!
Solidarity also means exchanges between men and women who want to travel. I intend to put an end to this absurd paradox which means that in the recent past, France has too often closed her doors to the very people who want to create jobs there, develop trade there, take part in research or artistic creation! So I hope administrative procedures will be simplified for students, provided they’re motivated, talented and largely capable of supporting themselves.
I also want artists, creative people, not to be forced to forgo a trip to France because they can’t obtain visas. I heard the message from your Minister of Culture, Youssou N’Dour, and it’s because I heard this message that we’re going to improve our procedures, while being responsible in controlling our immigration.
Solidarity also means consolidating the CFA franc zone. You’re committed to this area of monetary stability. You know what you owe to it: you too have managed to create a West and Central African union that has made integration and stability possible. But at the same time, couldn’t we together – the CFA franc zone countries and France – consider taking more active charge of handling reserves and currencies, so that we can use them for growth and employment? That’s the key challenge of the relationship between France and Africa: developing our economies, stepping up our trade, a shared vision of our responsibilities, values we uphold and requirements we lay down.
To extend growth and development further, I want to establish fairer economic and trade relations between Europe and Africa. I believe the African countries’ position in negotiations on the economic partnership agreements hasn’t been sufficiently taken into account. This discussion has got bogged down. I’m in favour of our relaunching it on a new basis, with conditions about timetable and content that are more advantageous for the African countries. You must play your role in trade and in international negotiations. France will help you with that!
We want to enable African states to negotiate more advantageous contracts with foreign multinationals, especially in the mining industry. This is why my country established, with the World Bank, a financial facility to strengthen legal aid to African countries in negotiating their contracts. It’s about enabling the African countries to be paid a fair price for the resources taken from their land.
Here in Senegal, my dear friends, these principles are reflected in France’s desire to be always at your side. This is why, in July, I granted your country exceptional budget aid of €130 million to respond to the emergency I was aware of and which France had a duty to address. It wasn’t about being generous, it was about showing solidarity and understanding. You know the importance I attach to the relationship between our two countries.
I welcome the fact that you and President Macky Sall have wanted to give priority to young people. Giving priority to young people was also the theme of my presidential campaign in France. I know what it means here in Senegal and throughout Africa. So I understand your expectations, your impatience. Later on, President Sall and I will be visiting one of three vocational training centres in Dakar recently financed by the French Development Agency. France will continue working in this direction in order to increase your potential in terms of education and qualifications. We’ll work towards renovating state collèges [schools catering for pupils aged between approximately 11 and 15 years] within the Dakar education authority area.
We’re aware, too, that young Africans want to be better trained, here in their own country, with great universities, because great African universities with research centres are needed so that you can have your children studying here. Which won’t prevent them from coming to provide us with their support and the fruits of their labour. But their training must be done here and young people leaving your schools and graduating from your universities, throughout Africa and Senegal, will have to find the job they’re looking for here.
Through education, through a perception of health, through transport and the infrastructures we want to develop – in short, everything which allows mobility, exchange, communication – what do we want to do? Develop? Undoubtedly, yes, but also share. Share a culture, share a language.
Because what also unites us is the International Organization of La Francophonie, that community which enables us to understand each other better, but also act better, that community which I’ll be going to see with President Macky Sall tomorrow, in Kinshasa, to persuade it to expand further, take initiatives and promote values.
Because speaking a language, speaking the French language – which, here, is an African language – also means conveying values, putting across messages, inspiring peoples; speaking French also means speaking the language of freedom, speaking the language of dignity, speaking the language of cultural diversity. It’s your language, it’s our language – we have it in common. Let’s spread it, promote it and ensure that those speaking it have an advantage over the others. We aren’t asking to crush other languages. Here, the French language isn’t driving away any other language. It doesn’t crush anything, it allows everything. That’s why we want to share this fine ideal of Francophony.
You also need not only human, cultural and linguistic exchanges but – as I’ve said – trade in the infrastructure and transport fields too. Your cities are being transformed in Africa. There will be very great world cities in Africa, with all it entails in terms of complex city planning and demand for housing.
I arrived at the airport – it took a while for President Macky Sall and me because many Senegalese people turned out to welcome us and we were being driven slowly. I had time to reflect on what I was seeing. I saw buildings springing up; I clearly see the needs. This is why France is ready to play her full part in this construction, in this creativity.
I’m talking about cities but not forgetting rural areas. Africa also has a tremendous asset in its rural environment. Don’t go believing that it’s a burden or a weight; don’t go thinking there’s some irreversible rural exodus that is somehow true of all forms of development. No, your agriculture must be developed, you can have more and better-developed produce than today. You must ensure your food security; agricultural productivity can be hugely developed in Africa. We shall stand with you because Africa needs to feed herself and ensure its food security and independence.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
I don’t want to stay at this rostrum for too long – it’s yours. You’ve done me the great honour – as I was saying – of welcoming me here. I’ve felt extremely touched. We’re in a place which the colonizers themselves built. You freed yourselves from them, you were able to find your way. You are a great nation and are welcoming me today as a friend.
We are linked both by history and, at the same time, so aware of what we have to do together, with each other. You expect from France not words, not principles – even though principles lead to action. You expect her to act and prove that she is at your side. I want to try and make you realize that you must be proud of yourselves – proud of your future, conscious of your present and that you ultimately have to create the best possible path: that of your development. You have young people who, I know, expect a great deal and sometimes wait too long. They’re growing impatient. We all have a duty to respond to them.
I thank Senegal, her honourable deputies, her [National] Assembly president, President Sall and the government. I thank Senegal and the Senegalese people for waiting for me, welcoming me and accompanying me – I’ll never forget this.
I’ll long remember the warmth of their welcome. But we still have so much to do together.
A great common history links us. It is now up to us to write a new story together, to map out the future. I came across a fine phrase in your national anthem, which President Senghor left you. It bears witness to what I want to do with you: “shoulder to shoulder”, move France and Africa forward together.
Long live Senegal! Long live France! Long live the friendship between Senegal and France!./.
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