West Africa and the Sahel region have been natural spheres of influence for France since the colonial days. However, over the last few years, France is increasingly facing threats here. Some of the recent incidents highlight this challenge.
Last month, France suspended military ties and $12 million in aid to the Central African Republic (CAR). France is reportedly upset at the anti-French disinformation campaign in CAR. Moreover, it has objected to Russia’s growing military relations with this country. CAR has massive uranium, oil, gold, etc. deposits. Thus the tussle for CAR is crucial for France.
Another problem for France is brewing in Algeria. The Algerian government has cancelled the operating license of France 24, alleging disinformation. The step was taken despite France 24 being a French state-owned international news television network. Also, Algeria rejected French wheat shipment. Moreover, with a $5 billion investment, Turkey has replaced France as the top investor in Algeria. Besides, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune is getting too close to Turkish President Erdogan. This relationship poses a direct challenge to French interests in Algeria.
Another African country where Turkey has taken France head-on is Libya. Turkey has signed a deal with Libya to redefine Turkish maritime borders to aid Erdogan’s plans of extending hold over the eastern Mediterranean Sea, a hydrocarbon-rich region. The move has brought Turkey to loggerheads with Greece. Moreover, France has supported the Greeks and sent their naval ships to the contested waters.
In Mali, in early June, France had decided to end its joint military operations after the Malian army usurped the country’s power in a coup. However, it has now reversed its decision. The step is welcome as France is critical to the fight against insurgency in the Sahel region that has displaced over 2 million people and killed thousands.
Considering all these happenings, that too over the past few months, it appears that the French reversal of the decision in Mali could be to stop the erosion of its geopolitical influence in Africa.