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French President Emmanuel Macron, center right, and Burkina Faso’s president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, center left, wave during a visit to a school in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Nov. 28 , 2017 (AP photo by Ahmed Yempabou Ouoba).

Macron’s Foreign Policy Takes Shape, but Can France Deliver?

Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017

After a first six months spent focused on matters domestic and European, French President Emmanuel Macron has begun to travel farther afield. He is in West Africa this week, having arrived yesterday in Burkina Faso and continuing on to Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. Earlier this month he traveled to the Persian Gulf for a planned visit to the United Arab Emirates, making an unplanned stopover in Saudi Arabia on his way back to Paris.

In West Africa, Macron will try, as all new French presidents must, to reset a relationship burdened by the historical legacy of colonial exploitation and postcolonial meddling known as Francafrique. The gesture is a timeworn and almost rote exercise, but its significance can become most evident when poorly executed. In 2007, then-President Nicolas Sarkozy notoriously bungled his inaugural visit to sub-Saharan Africa, and set back an ambitious agenda for modernizing France’s security ties with its former colonies, with a poorly received speech deemed condescending and patronizing by his Senegalese hosts and the region at large. Macron’s message of equal partnership to university students in Ouagadougou yesterday was an improvement, but he was nonetheless treated to a rowdy reception. ...

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