Mali set the stage in 2021, followed by Burkina Faso and Niger, and now Gabon has joined the ranks of countries rising against French-backed rulers who have been aiding Paris in exploiting Africa’s wealth. While Western media labels these coups as violent overthrows of democratically elected governments, the response from African people themselves paints a different picture. After each coup, citizens have taken to the streets, expressing hope and enthusiasm for a new era of prosperity. These scenes may come as a shock to millions worldwide who believe that the era of colonialism has ended. However, the reality is far from it.
France established “cooperation agreements” with West African countries upon granting them independence. According to these agreements, African nations are prohibited from selling their resources to any country other than France without Paris’ permission. Furthermore, they are required to deposit their money and gold in the French treasury, leaving them with minimal control over how these assets can be utilized. They also have to use the CFA franc which links their currencies to France’s currency. France’s colonization of Africa may not be around in the form of blatant slavery and murder like it used to be, but it still exists in a more profitable manner. While France likes to tell the world that African countries have stayed committed to the so-called cooperation agreements by choice, when Guinea decided to leave the colonial system, Paris tried to set an example by making sure the country’s economy “would never recover”.
In this edition of our newspaper, we will delve into how France continues to exploit West African countries while hypocritically posing as a defender of human rights.
Mali: opening the floodgates
Mali was the first country in West Africa to rise up against France’s modern colonization. Despite the recent coup, French companies still have a large presence in Mali but often via African subsidiaries, and in sectors such as water, sanitation, construction, energy, agricultural equipment, information and communication technologies, and military and health services. This is where you find companies such as Orange, BNP, Ubifrance, Air Liquide, and TOTAL which has around 40 service stations. Mali is also significant to France due to its gold. The Malian soil contains 7 big gold mines, particularly near the border with Senegal.
Niger: life of French nuclear plants
Niger has been making headlines in the past months due to an army-led coup overthrowing the French-backed government of Mohamed Bazoum. Paris along with the remaining French-controlled African states in the ECOWAS seems to be mulling a potential military intervention in Niger to bring back the government of Bazoum. But why is Niger so important to France?
The answer has to do with France’s main nuclear power company Areva now called Orano. A third of Orano’s production comes from the Uranium it gets from two active mines in Niger. It is also important to mention that 45% of Orano’s shares are owned by the French state itself.
Burkina Faso: golden bands around French fingers
Burkina Faso is the 6th largest African gold producer behind Ghana, Sudan, South Africa, Guinea and Mali. Industrial mining is dominated by gold. Burkina Faso currently has more than 600 active artisanal gold mining sites and more than a million people working in them. Many of these people are working under extremely harsh and inhumane conditions. Their employers, mostly French, have exploited tons of gold this way. France reportedly looted 39 tons of Burkina Faso’s gold in 2016, 36 tons in 2015, 36 tons in 2014, 33 tons in 2013, and 29 tons in 2012 through the troops it had deployed in the country to “fight terrorism”. 
Guiana: wealthy poor nation
Guinea’s economic and social indicators are in total contrast to the natural wealth available to the country. Indeed, Guinea has immense hydrographic wealth (It’s called the water tower of Africa), and enormous mining potential (possesses a third of the world’s reserves of bauxite, an ore intended to manufacture aluminum, gold, diamond, manganese, zinc, cobalt, nickel, uranium). France is the largest exploiter of Guiana’s resources and while it gets Aluminium Ore, Rice, and other processed fruits and nuts from the country it believes Guiana has “vastly underexploited wealth” that Paris should be mindful of. 
Benin: France’s next big plan
Benin is rich in various natural resources. it has offshore oil reserves in the Gulf of Guinea, natural gas reserves that are extracted and used for energy production, deposits of minerals such as limestone, marble, clay, and gold which are used for construction, manufacturing, and jewelry production, a diverse range of agricultural resources including cocoa, palm oil, cotton, coffee, corn, yams, cassava, and various fruits and vegetables as well as forests that provide timber resources, and phosphate deposits which are used in fertilizer production. Despite tens of French companies active in Benin, the French-backed Beninese government is planning to host more French firms to “support industrialization”.
Gabon: heart of French arsenal
Gabon is a large supplier of oil and uranium. Gabon’s uranium goes straight into France’s arsenal of nuclear weapons. The country is also the second largest producer of manganese in the world which is used in the production of steel and batteries.
At least 80 French are active in the West African country, exploiting oil, manganese and other products. Most of them have been forced to halt their activities since a coup in August. Among the largest French groups present on site, the mining group Eramet initially suspended its extraction and rail transport activities but is planning to pick up on them soon.
Togo: torn between big powers
Togo was first a German colony, but during World War I France and Britain partitioned the region among themselves after carrying out a bloody invasion. It finally gained independence in 1960.
There were nearly 50 French subsidiaries in Togo in 2019. The sectors dominated by French companies are logistics, agriculture and food, construction, and energy. What Togo gains from the activity of all these companies is only about 27.9 M Euros annually. Togo’s revenues only amounted to 9.4 million in 2015 while French companies have been active there since the country’s independence.
Ivory Coast: scene of two civil wars
The first Europeans who settled in Côte d’Ivoire were the French who maintained their influence on the country throughout the years. Many believe that the two tragic civil wars which enveloped Ivory Coast in 2002 and 2011 were largely due to the policies imposed upon locals by France.
The French have also signed numerous protectorate treaties with customary chiefs and kings of the West African nation since they stepped foot there. Paris used to directly operate coffee, cocoa and banana plantations in Ivory Coast. Currently the French get colossal amounts of wood, gold and palm oil from the West African nation’s resources.
Cameroon: “painful and tragic” past
Cameroon has endured the oppressive dominance of French colonialism for a significant period. However, much of the evidence of the atrocities committed by French generals and their accomplices against a defenseless and impoverished population has been erased. Even the current president of France himself has called the colonial history of Cameroon “tragic and painful”.
Presently, France maintains its colonization in Cameroon in other ways. About 200 companies (subsidiaries of French groups or companies owned by French nationals) were active in Cameroon as of 2022. The main sectors of activity in which French companies operate are energy, agriculture and wood, transport and logistics, financial activities, telecommunications and food distribution.
Chad: the loss of a culture
The most important asset France has stolen from Chad is the country’s culture. When withdrawing from the African colonies, France imposed two conditions on them. First that French would become the official language of the country and second, education in French-designed schools would become compulsory. When Chad gained independence, the percentage of those who spoke French in the country was only around 2%.
Currently, Chad’s petroleum, gold, natron, uranium, limestone, sand, gravel, kaolin and salt are getting exploited by French companies which are freely operating thanks to the large military presence of Paris.
Mauritania: A Forgotten Land
African scholars believe France altered the traditional social framework in Mauritania by deepening and institutionalizing ethnic divisions and disrupting long-established systems of power. Even the name now given to the country is a term created by the French. The people of Mauritania who used to call their land Bilad ai-Shinqit have been forced to lose almost every aspect of their identity
Currently, around 60 French companies, including certain subsidiaries of French groups, are present in Mauritania. They are active in various sectors (energy, construction, logistics, banking and other services) and employ at least 3,000 Africans who work under questionable conditions.
Senegal: oldest colony in black Africa
The first permanent French settlement in West Africa was established in 1659 at Saint-Louis at the mouth of the Senegal River.
Senegal is one of the richest countries in Africa in terms of natural resources. The country has abundant resources of oil, gold, Clay, iron ore, phosphate and mineral sands. Tens of African companies, similar to other West African nations, are present in Senegal and have dominated all of the country’s profitable industries. Senegalese people barely scrape by while France continues to rake in billions of dollars of Senegal’s wealth.
By Mona Hojat Ansari
First published in Tehran Times