Bordeaux Colloquium

Groupe de Recherches sur l’Afrique Francophone &
Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Bordeaux


An International Cross-disciplinary Colloquium at Talence (France) 22–24 May 1997

Coordinators: (F) Daniel Bach, Director CEAN; (US) Edouard Bustin, Director GRAF

Workshop Themes

1. The Place of Africa in the Foreign Policies of France and the United States
Chair: Edouard Bustin (Boston University)

Evidence suggests that France and the United States have turned out to be the two most important and influential external actors in Africa during the second half of the 20th century. Beyond this ostensible parallelism, however, it should be noted that the interests and motivations of these two actors have been, and remain, significantly different, whether in terms of their respective visions of Africa, or in terms of the place it occupies in the ways (strategic, political, economic) in which France and the United States perceive their international environment. It might be legitimate, for instance, to posit, as a working hypothesis, that one of Africa’s major functions during that period, as seen from Paris, was to provide France with an extension of influence, prestige, or even power, enabling it to balance (to some degree) U.S. hegemony, whereas the “use” of Africa for such a purpose, as seen from Washington, made sense only in the Cold War context, and thus allowed for France’s ad hoc roles as a patron of first resort, as a broker or enforcer for collective “Western” interests—even at the cost of occasional frictions or misunderstandings (Chad, Zaï)

The eclipse of the USSR as a contender for superpower status (a phenomenon whose effects Africa was among the very first areas to experience, some ten years ago) paves the way for the United States and for France to redefine their respective roles in Africa, as well as rethink the compatibility of their policies toward that continent. The theoretical logic of solidarity and alliance for which Cold War bipolarity supplied the ultima ratio now becomes somewhat brittle, and makes way for a more narrowly economic and competitive type of rationality, even if somewhat obfuscated by a form of “global thinking” in which the all-purpose mantras of “liberalization” and “democratization” are being called upon to spruce up the ever-reliable concept of “development”.

2. The Formulation of Public Policies
Chair: Daniel Bourmaud (IEP-Bordeaux / CEAN)

The purpose of this workshop is to elucidate the operation of the U.S. and French decision-making processes regarding African policies. The term “African policy” shall be used in a broad sense, covering the various types of agency pursued by either state with respect to Africa: diplomacy proper, or any form of development policy (public health, training and education, technical assistance to African agencies, etc.)

Following Graham Allison’s findings, we know that the mechanisms of foreign policy decision-making are no different from those applying to domestic policies. The weight of bureaucracies proves decisive, and often subjects institutional decision-makers to constraints that seriously curtail their margin of autonomy. In the case of France, for instance, we know of the inextricable overlap of structures (e.g., government departments, bureaucracies and staffs, pressure groups, influence networks) but there are no empirical studies showing the mechanics of interaction between the different actors. The presidency has been traditionally presented as the locus where the different policies are reconciled. Yet we also know that such important decisions as the devaluation of the CFA by-passed the presidency, to be handled instead by the Prime Minister in a way that reflected his own choices.

The U.S. system, for its part, has been the subject of a number of studies which, nevertheless, need to be updated in the light of recent developments in Africa. Furthermore, moral considerations, long kept on the sidelines of the foreign policy arena, have made a spectacular comeback in the decision makers’ motivations: Is this rhetoric purely circumstantial, or are we truly dealing with a new factor in the formulation and implementation by France and the United States of their respective African policies?

Such questions call for answers based on empirical, issues-oriented approaches, which are the necessary prelude to any possible generalizations applying to the range of policies developed by the two actors toward sub-Saharan Africa. Thus, contributions will emphasize case studies (e.g., CFA devaluation, US intervention in Somalia, specific development aid policies, or further back, the Congo crisis and the US decision-making system, etc.) as examples highlighting models of public policy formulation.

3. Strategic Issues and Crisis Management
Chairs: Daniel Bach (CNRS / CEAN) & Luc Sindjoun (Université de Yaoundé)

This workshop will initially address the way in which the end of world bipolarity has refashioned geopolitical and security concerns whether in Africa itself, or in terms of the relations which external actors maintain with the African continent. It will also analyze the ways in which the growing fluidity of the traditional dimensions and components of security has affected the sense and scope of existing models for intervention and conflict regulation. Such models tend to mutate into paradigms in which the distinction between the internal and external domains becomes increasingly irrelevant, as the crisis of the nation-state model makes the notion of territorial frameworks problematic.

Through case studies, participants in this workshop will analyze modes of intervention and so-called “preventive” conflict-management strategies. The emergence of new actors, the rising scope of political conditionality, the role of NGOs, and the trend toward process multilateralization shall be examined. Particular attention will be devoted to the lessons to be learned from interventions in the Horn of Africa, West Africa, and Southern Africa.

4. Economic Interests and Rivalries
Chair: Robert Kappel (Universitä Leipzig)

From an international perspective, Africa as a whole is being increasingly marginalized. In 1994, Africa accounted for under 2% of world trade. Flows of direct foreign investment are also very low. Nevertheless there are signs of a renewal of economic interests in Africa. While France’s, Germany’s and the UK’s shares of foreign trade with Africa have globally declined, there has been a noticeable increase of exchanges with specific areas of the continent. The same applies to direct foreign investments. Although disinvestment is widespread, substantial gains have been monitored in South Africa, and to a lesser extent Nigeria. The workshop will discuss in a comparative perspective trends and prospects relating to trade and investment in Africa.The renewed competition between French and US actors, and the evolution of geo-economic stakes in the post-Cold War context will be emphasized. The articulation between economic interests and democratization will also be discussed.

5. France and the United States Viewed from Africa
Chair: Comi Toulabor (FNSP/CEAN)

International relations also consist of images and perceptions that partners develop about each other, and through which their behavior is often oriented. Through Western discourse, the way in which Africa is represented in the West is well-known, but there is considerable ignorance of what Africans think of the West in general, and of France or the United States in particular.

As indicated by its title, this workshop will attempt to find out how Africa perceives those two countries whose relations with the continent have been dis-symmetrical, and to identify the historical, political, economic, and other occurrences that contributed to the shaping of such perceptions, as well as to the way they have evolved over time.

6. Multilateralism in French and U.S. Relations with Africa: Challenges and Opportunities
Chair: Cé Monga (MIT & Boston University)

Should we regret the days when bilateralism determined the external relations of African states? What is the real impact of international financing agencies (World Bank, IMF, CFD, USAID, EDF, etc.) on the socio-political dynamics currently unfolding in Africa? Could it be possible for Africa to escape from “Bretton Woods tutelage” in a context of all-out globalization? How can we re-assess such issues as the legitimacy of elected leaders or of national sovereignties at a time when all countries are being forced to follow the same economic policies?

In view of the rather qualified outcomes of policies engineered by multilateral agencies in Africa, is it too early to speak of a post-Structural Adjustment re-assessment? Will the accelerated construction of Europe after 1999 act as a stimulant for economic and budgetary integration in Africa? What scenarios are in store for the Franc Zone after the adoption of a common European currency becomes a reality? Such are the issues that will be explored in this workshop.

7. Institutional Models and Transfers
Chairs: Dominique Darbon (Université Montesquieu IV/CEAN) & Patrick Quantin (FNSP/CEAN)

Even if they are not the only ones, and even if the transfers they initiate are “appropriated” through a mimetic process, France and the United States are the leading suppliers of models for planning or implementing the institutionalization of politics in Africa. Over the past few years, the emphasis on democratization, governance, the rule of law, or human rights confirms the influence of Western models at a time when alternative sources seem to falter. It may be appropriate to ask , however, whether, under cover of this apparent re-awakening, we may be witnessing a “transfer of misunderstandings”, thanks to the fundamental ambiguities nested in the deeply divergent concepts on which the Americans and the French anchor the legitimacy of such institutions as elections, political parties, or the management of minority rights.

8. African Studies in France and in the United States
Chairs: Edmund Keller (UCLA) & Alain Ricard (CNRS/CEAN)

This workshop looks back to the earliest stages of interest for Africa in the United States, where the first African studies center, at Northwestern University, was centered on Melville Herskovits’ work and personality, bringing together a number of themes that are still relevant, such as the articulation between anthropology and political science, or that centered around folklore, between linguistics and literature. Two other centers (Boston University and UCLA) soon followed. In the early 1960s, the work of James S.Coleman and the concept of political development achieve a high degree of visibility. This is amplified through the influence of the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, and more recently of the Carter Center, contributing to the revival of Coleman’s themes. The gap which sometimes separates t he European centers from those in the United States probably dates back to the anticolonial premise—welcome in Africa—of most U.S. Africanists, while the study of Africa in France continues to reflect a colonial legacy, if only where institutions are concerned.

Among the themes that can be addressed in a comparative perspective are the African diaspora, Afrocentricity and the legacy of Cheikh Anta Diop, studies on the State and public administration (all quite alive in France), the ethnology of discourse and communication, as well as problems relating to the ethics and deontology of research, the independence of scholars with respect to governmental agencies, foundations, the Congress for Cultural Freedom, etc.). Why are African studies centers still being created in the United States? What is the purpose of the US Department of Education’s “Title VI” programs? Why is the term “post-colony” emerging?

9. Pan-Africanism in Practice : Cultural Interactions and Political Projects
Chairs/Discussants: Bennetta Jules-Rosette (UCSD) & Denis Constant Martin (FNSP-CERI/CEAN)

While the “historical” phase of Pan-Africanism, which generated large gatherings of intellectual and political figures from Paris (1919) to Manchester, led to, and, in some sense, ended with, the founding of the Organization of African Unity at Addis Ababa in 1963, the dreams and the practices aiming at creating or re-creating the oneness of Africa cannot be bracketed between those two dates, or within that movement alone.

Beyond the diversity of Africa, and the dissemination of those who, directly or indirectly, originate from it, the quest for one’s own history and culture, or the simple desire to express strength and dignity in the face of scorn and oppression, have stimulated practices that have concretized Pan-Africanism without necessarily theorizing, or even naming it. The forcible smelting of the many Africas on the American continent and the Caribbean, the Africans’ shared fascination with Afro-American cultures, the reciprocal influences on religion, music, and intellectual or political pursuits in many lands have blazed the way for encounters which continue to nourish imagination in Paris, London, Dakar, Johannesburg, Washington, or Kingston, Jamaica. If today, the idea of Pan-Africanism regains its hold on the minds of so many young Africans, it may be to the beat of reggae and rap, bouncing the U.S. rediscovery of Cheikh Anta Diop back to the “Nations nè.”

Without claiming to cover the whole range of such practices, this workshop will attempt to highlight some of the facts illustrating cultural interactions that link France, the Americas (including the Caribbean), and Africa, and to assess how such practices have influenced, in this or that place, the formulation of a more overtly political form of Pan-Africanism.

10. Post-independence Aid to Africa : Comparative European and US Cases, 1955–1995.
Chairs: James McCann (Boston University) & Stefan Brü (Institut fü Afrika-Kunde, Hamburg)

This workshop will include papers which will examine the comparative evolution of development aid to Africa in the United States and Europe over the period 1955–1995. Papers will review the relationship between policies in development aid and trans-Atlantic economy, and local changes in African political economy. On the European side, the workshop will consider the impact of French and German aid policies in the light of discussions over the European Union. Case studies may include Ethiopia, Tanzania, Senegal, Eritrea, and a case from Southern Africa. Specific issues will include monetary policy in the CFA zone, agricultural development, and bilateral aid to higher education. The cochairs and discussants will attempt to draw together examples from case studies to draw a wider set of conclusions which will address the directions of bilateral aid to Africa in the first decade of the next millennium.