by Fredrick Ngugi, at 01:00 pm, July 14, 2017, Politics

French President Says Lack of Civilization, Overpopulation Hamper African Development

French President Emmanuel Macron has come under fire for claiming that “civilization” problems and women having “seven or eight children” are to blame for underdevelopment in Africa.

The newly elected president was speaking at the just-concluded G20 Summit in Germany, where he was asked about the possibility of implementing a policy in Africa like the American Marshall Plan for rebuilding Europe after the Second World War, according to the Independent.

In his lengthy response, Macron said Africa faces completely different problems, most of which are “civilizational.”

He added that although France has accepted responsibility to help with infrastructure, education, and health, a simple money transfer won’t solve the numerous challenges that the continent faces today.

“One of the essential challenges of Africa…is that in some countries today seven or eight children [are] born to each woman,” Macron added.

Insincere & Condescending Remarks

Many local and international commentators have rejected Macron’s statements, characterizing them as racist, problematic, and arrogant.

According to Liberation, a French newspaper, blaming overpopulation for poverty and African women for overpopulation distracts the world from the roles played by colonial powers, such as France and the U.K.

Renowned French writer Françoise Vergès once wrote, “Third world women are made responsible for underdevelopment that causes overpopulation. The theory of overpopulation also avoids questioning the role of colonialism and imperialism in poverty.”

Some Africans have also criticized President Macron for generalizing the African continent and ignoring the huge differences that exist between African countries.

“Africa is not a country. You cannot, as a world leader [or even an ordinary person on the streets with no political ambitions] conflate African countries with ‘Africa,’” says Mishka Wazar, a South African writer for Daily Fox.

Wazar argues that the President’s statements were damaging and fed in to the Western “savior mentality,” adding that the problems that Africa faces have nothing to do with civilization.

Instead, colonial borders, the mismanagement of resources, and Western interference, she says, are mainly to blame for the underdevelopment across the continent.

Another critic, Siddhartha Mitter, writing for Quartz Africa, adds that Macron’s remarks fall in to the tradition of lofty and condescending statements about Africa that point to all other causes of the continent’s problems except colonialism and its enduring trace: “There is a long history of population panic and its use in racist ideology,” Mitter writes.

Although President Macron spoke against colonialism during his campaigns — even calling it a “crime against humanity” — he has been noticeably silent on France’s tainted legacy in Africa since he was sworn in as president in May.

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