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Pension Reform in France May Lead to Hardening of Paris' Positions on Francafrique, Activist Says

© AFP 2023 / LOIC VENANCEProtestors hold placards during a demonstration as part of a national day of strikes and protests, a week after the French government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote, using the article 49.3 of the constitution, in Nantes, western France, on March 23, 2023
Protestors hold placards during a  demonstration as part of a national day of strikes and protests, a week after the French government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote, using the article 49.3 of the constitution, in Nantes, western France, on March 23, 2023 - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.03.2023
France has recently unveiled pension reforms to raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 64. The reform, which has triggered public discontent, will come into force in 2023, French President Emmanuel Macron has recently announced.
The rising social discontent over pension reform in France risks causing Paris to draw a harder line on the issue of Francafrique, pan-Africanist activist Nathalie Yamb tells Sputnik.
According to her, the crisis could lead Paris to further harden its position on Francafrique, seeking at all costs to protect its interests and influence on the continent.

"Losing Francafrique, I repeat, and [former French President] Chirac already said it, is a total loss to the standard of living in France. This will directly lower the standard of living, bringing an even greater precariousness of the French [...] What is happening in France now will therefore increase their need to lock up the Francafrique," Yamb explains.

France has never changed its approach since decolonization and is not looking for an alternative to its model of domination, as opposed to the British, who have gradually transformed their "colonial square" into a market, the activist emphasizes.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the media as he visits the International Agriculture Fair in Paris, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.02.2023
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Perilous pension reform

Pension reform has caused a strong rift in France, causing hundreds of thousands of demonstrators to leave their home and participate in protests. Demonstrations have come in quick succession since early January. The government finally forced its text through the Assembly, invoking Article 49.3 of the Constitution, which means that the French Parliament did not vote for the reform.
The use of Article 49.3 seems to have further fanned the social anger and many clashes with the police have been observed in recent days. Yamb feels it is ironic that the UN and the International Criminal Court (ICC) are slow to condemn the repression of French demonstrators, when they're often so quick to draw their weapons against other states.
The pension reform, which pushes the legal retirement age from 62 to 64, will come into force in 2023, French President Emmanuel Macron has announced.
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Accused of being 'in the pay of Moscow'

Just back from the Russia-Africa parliamentary conference, Yamb is amused that critics see her as being "in the pay of Moscow", just as other pan-African influencers such as Kemi Séba.
She replies that she is "ready to talk about Africa everywhere", but only if microphones are set up for her. The activist raises the question of the media on which the activists, and even the African leaders, take the floor. She deplores that to be taken seriously, Africans have to express themselves on French public media while these platforms remain under the control of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
French media has been facing controversy lately in some parts of Africa. RFI (Radio France Internationale) was suspended in Burkina Faso in early December 2022. The French radio station was also criticized by Beninese President Patrice Talon in mid-March, when he accused it of "rejoicing in the real or imaginary setbacks" of the country.
Another broadcaster, France 24, has faced the same issue, after its coverage of some abductions of women in Burkina Faso recently caused a stir. The two French media outlets were permanently turned off in Mali last April.
General Thierry Burkhard, French Army Chief of the Defence Staff, talks on April 15, 2022 to a group of soldiers from Cameroon, Chad, Gabon, Democratic republic of Congo, Republic of Congo and Central African Republic taking part in a training at the Raponda Walker Arboretum forest in Akanda, Gabon - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.03.2023
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'BRICS is the best option for a multipolar world'

According to the activist, Africa must, above all, assert its sovereignty and freely assume the choice of its partners. All options are open, but China and Russia have the advantage of having "never tried to use their influence to bring about regime change" in Africa, unlike some colonial powers.

"We don't want to follow anyone, we don't want to belong to anyone, we want to be the ones who decide and show the way for the continent," Yamb emphasizes. "President Putin has made us offers: there are others. China is making offers, India is making offers, Germany is making offers, everyone is making offers. But to know which one is the most relevant, we must already know what we need."

Underlining that Africa should freely choose with whom to cooperate, the activist stresses that BRICS is making a great contribution to ending the model of a unipolar world.
BRICS is an abbreviation of the five leading emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The first four members originally were grouped as BRIC, formed in 2001; in 2010, South Africa joined the group which then changed its name to BRICS. It is widely seen that the countries' goal is to conduct an independent economic policy, striving to create an alternative to the West-oriented economy.
Under the spotlight in recent months, BRICS is attracting admiring glances from African countries. Algeria, for instance, decided to apply to join the institution officially.
The pan-African activist sees these rapprochements, which could lead to the emergence of a multipolar world, in a positive light, when everyone is fully invested in this collaboration.

"I expect sincere collaboration, not just opportunistic. Sincere. If we say we are friends, then we have to give each other the means to help each other [...] BRICS is the future. It is the best option for a multipolar world that we have today," Yamb explains.

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