Written evidence from Professor Tony Chafer,
University of Portsmouth |
About the author: Professor of Contemporary French
Area Studies specialising in UK/French/EU Africa policy.
The perception I have gained from my research on
Africa policy in London, Paris and Brussels is that policy relating
to Africa is often short-termist and preoccupied with meeting,
often annual, targets, with the result that a long-term view of
the strategic importance of Africa is not taken and that the resources
deployed in support of UK Africa policy by the FCO/MoD/DfID are
not deployed in a strategic way (eg initiatives launched one year
and then abandoned a year or two years later, leading to waste
of effort and resources).
On Africa policy, both London and Paris are confronted
by what one might describe as the "ends vs. means" dilemma:
in other words, both the UK and France wish to remain key players
in Africa but increasingly do not have the means (financial and
personnel) of their ambitions. In order to retain their position
and influence in Africa, and against the background of expensive
commitments in other parts of the world, they are therefore obliged
both to cooperate with other external powers and build partnerships
within Africa (eg with regional organisations such as ECOWAS)
in order to achieve their policy goals within Africa. The former
is especially important in terms of mobilising support (and, at
EU level, resources) for the pursuit of such goals.
The question that therefore seems to arise in the
context of a research project I recently undertook with Dr Gordon
Cumming (Cardiff University) is the following:
- do the FCO (together with the DfID) and the Quai
d'Orsay (together with the Elysée) have an institutional
framework for the pursuit of common goals in Africa? While we
have found examples of France and Britain working together on
certain issues, notably in the security field, this often seems
to be on an ad hoc basis, depending on personalities on
the ground or on good personal relationships between politicians
or officials in London and Paris, rather than on any systematic
commitment to cooperation at Ministry level.
- to what extent do the FCO and the Quai d'Orsay
have a shared understanding of key issues confronting Africa and
of the most effective ways of addressing these? Again, we have
found examples of such understanding, again notably in the security
field, but this often appears to be at "operational level"
and born of circumstanceseg the need to address immediate
problemsrather than any systematic commitment to cooperation.
- how systematically is the "ends vs. means"
dilemma being addressed by the UK government with respect to African
policy? The French government seems both more committed to, and
more successful at, mobilising the support and resources of other
countries, at EU level in particular, in pursuit of its policy
objectives in Africa, than the UK has been to date.
- following on from this, what are the opportunities
for policy coordination and cooperation between London and Paris
on African policy and how might they best be pursued? The UK and
France, by their history, have an exceptional depth and breadth
of both knowledge and experience of the African continent. Yet,
Anglo-French cooperation has so far been limited and restricted
largely to the security field. Are there not other policy areas
where France and the UK have common policy interests and where
there might be benefits to be derived from working together?
- The UK needs to move beyond a policy of focusing
its engagement on its traditional interlocutors (eg Nigeria in
West Africa, Kenya in East Africa) and on the AU, and should look
also to increasing its engagement with regional organisations
in Africa (eg ECOWAS).
- in the context of new external powers (China,
Brazil, India, Japan, Turkey) becoming increasingly active in
Africa, the UK risks losing out in terms of its influence in Africa
if it does not adopt a more strategic approach to cooperation
with other key partners (eg France) with an interest in Africa
and if it does not work more closely with its partners to mobilise
resources at EU Level (European Council, Commission) in pursuit
of HMG's goals on the continent.
29 November 2010