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French Hegemony over Africa – The Case of African Nations’ Cup 2019. By Lambert Mbom.

There is an unmistakable “Africanness” with the French Soccer team and Trevor Noah, the South African comedian loudly proclaimed this after the French team won the 2018 World Cup. After France conquered parts of Africa since the Scramble for Africa in 1884, they have never left Africa. With the dawn of independence in the 1960’s, they moved to the background and simply propped up dictators to do their bidding.

There is no France without Africa. France continues to maintain a stranglehold over her former colonies politically and economically. There is an increasing backlash over the French imperialistic and anachronistic colonial pact that continues to impoverish 14 African countries. One other area the French have maintained this hegemony over Africa is in soccer. Africans love soccer and it is the most famous sports on the continent. It is a useful distraction.

The 32nd edition of the African Nations’ Cup is currently taking place in Egypt, the land of the Pharaohs and a distinctively African nation. Yet the soccer bonanza carries an unvarnished French flavor in particular and a European accent in general.

The main sponsor of the event is the French Oil and gas magnate, Total. This company is present in 42 countries in Africa, 21 of which are taking part in the 2019 African Nations’ Cup.  No wonder they are the main sponsors of the event.

Anyone who doubts the nefarious influence of France and its French companies, it suffices to listen to the Former Senegalese Minister of energy, Thierno Allasane Sall who resigned in protest over an oil deal with Total. In an interview he gave last January he remarked that:

“France is pressuring Senegal to obtain oil and gas exploitation. I cannot sign a document where the French company Total which was in 5th position to acquire the market according to the experts, suddenly becomes number 1 after pressure on President Macky Sall. What happens there is happening everywhere in Africa. ”

He described the French machinations as coup plotters and nation destabilizers when they don’t get their way. Thierno affirmed that “France is ready to wage war on you, a coup d’etat, or to raise a whole rebellion to impose a contract. They impose their deal and if you do not want you clear.” Oil has rightly been described as the resource curse of Africa.

Then we have the French Multinational telecommunications network: Orange also sponsoring the event. This giant is present across 20 countries of Africa 11 of which are currently taking part in the soccer jamboree. How about the South African behemoth, MTN with the largest number of mobile phone users in Africa?

Beyond sponsorship, we also find French domination with the technical staff of the different teams. Seven of the 24 coaches managing African teams at this competition are white French citizens namely Sebastien Desabre (Uganda), Nicholas Dupuis (Madagascar), Sebastien Magne (Kenya), Corentin Martins (Mauritania), Alain Giresse (Tunisia), Herve Renard (Morocco), Michel Dussuyer (Benin).

Five other teams are managed by Europeans German Gernot Rohr (Nigeria), Belgian Paul Put (Guinea), Serbian Srdjan Vasiljevic(Angola), Englishman Stuart Baxter (South Africa) and Dutchman Clarence Seedorf (Cameroon) and one by Mexican Javier Aguirre (Egypt).

We have 11 African coaches with Nigerian Emmanuel Amuneke the only one coaching a country other than his.

France has always been a favorite destination for African soccer players. According to Karim Farouk of Ahram Online,  “France is a second home for African players…Out of the 552 players who will feature in the tournament, 95 are playing in France — mostly in Ligue 1 and other lower divisions.”

Vestiges of European colonial domination loom large with the outfits of the different teams. The German giant PUMA has the highest number of contracts. It is supplier to Egypt, Senegal, Angola, Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana. Meanwhile, the other German competitor Adidas has Algeria and Morocco.

The British outfit Umbro supplies Zimbabwe and the Irish O’Neills is supplying to the DRC while Italian Kappa is responsible for Tunisia and Macron, the other Italian Sportswear company is responsible for Guinea and Kenya. The French brand Airness is responsible for Mali while Le Coq Sportif is responsible for Cameroon’s outfits.

The non-European companies supplying are the American superstar Nike which is serving Nigeria, Burundi and South Africa whereas the Australian Gazman is supplying Madagascar.

The lone African company on this dais is Moroccan AB Sport availed of by Mauritania. Africans must learn to consume African products especially with the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

Last February, the African Development Bank launched the Pan African Fashion Initiative to promote African textiles and garments. During the launch, Ethiopian President noted that “Globally, Africa’s cultural colours and clothing are increasingly being embraced.”

The biennial soccer event provides a great and unique opportunity for African countries especially the textile giants Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, South African and Tunisia to showcase their worth. If nothing else at least they should be able to take advantage during competitions like these to make the textile industry bloom.

Unless African nations shrug off their sentimental attachment to France, she will remain to paraphrase Shakespeare “Like flies to wanton boys are…They kill us for their sport.” Wake up Africa.

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