France Courting South Africa For Security, Renewable Energy

France Courting South Africa For Security, Renewable Energy

France wants South Africa to play a stronger role in continental security and is granting Africa’s economic powerhouse a $130-million loan to develop wind and solar power, according to a report in BusinessStandard.

French President Francois Hollande arrived in South Africa today for a two-day state visit  to push for greater cooperation on African crises, the report said.

The visit is the first by a French leader since Nicolas Sarkozy traveled there in 2008 to seek new partnerships beyond France’s former colonies.

France is still heavily involved in security and peacekeeping in its former colonies where it has often stepped in militarily.

However Hollande has tried to shrug off the negative image of “France-Afrique,” a term used to describe the secretive use of political and economic influence between elites in France and former colonies.

Economic ties will also dominate talks between Hollande and his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma today, with the two nations due to sign accords including one on developing South Africa‘s nuclear power.

France will also grant energy-strapped South Africa’s power giant Eskom a loan of $130 million for the construction of a solar power station and a wind farm.

France, a “big player” in Africa, is trying to “get South Africa to be playing a stronger role in continental security efforts,” said David Hornsby, a lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand.

France “wants to play an active role in the geopolitical future of Africa, and to do it, it needs partners that are strong enough, well established,” said political analyst Koffi Kouakou.

“And the only one really who is established… is South Africa. There is no way France can have a strategy (for Africa) ignoring South Africa,” he said.

The two countries have often disagreed over how to tackle conflicts such as those in Libya and Ivory Coast.

However French officials say Hollande has maintained close contact with Zuma over the situation in Mali, where French forces intervened against Islamist groups this year.

Another issue of concern is the deeply troubled Central African Republic, stricken by what the U.N. termed a “total breakdown of law and order” since a bloody coup in March.

South Africa pulled its troops out of the CAR in March after 15 soldiers were killed as the Seleka rebel coalition seized power, and French forces helped with their evacuation.