Emmanuel Macron has been criticised for claiming “civilisational” problems and women having “seven or eight children” are hampering development in African nations.
While speaking at the G20 summit, the French President was asked about the possibility of implementing a policy in the continent like America’s Marshall Plan for rebuilding Europe after the Second World War.
“The problems Africa face today are completely different … and are ‘civilisational’,” Mr Macron told a reporter from former French colony Ivory Coast. “What are the problems? Failed states, complex democratic transitions and extremely difficult demographic transitions.”
In a lengthy reply, Mr Macron also listed issues including Islamist terrorism, drugs and weapons trafficking but said there were examples showing the “continent is a land of opportunity”.
He said that although France, a former colonial power that controlled dozens of territories across Africa, accepted responsibility to help with infrastructure, education and heath, a “simple money transfer” was not the answer.
“It’s by a more rigorous governance, a fight against corruption, a fight for good governance, a successful demographic transition when countries today have seven or eight children per woman,” Mr Macron added.
“At the moment, spending billions of euros outright would stablise nothing. So the transformation plan that we have to conduct together must be developed according to African interests by and with African leaders.”
The excerpt of his speech on Saturday went largely unnoticed during the wide-ranging G20 summit, which saw violent protests erupt in Hamburg. But an edited clip of his response being shared on social media has since provoked outrage, with critics accusing the French President of blaming women for poverty and buying into racial stereotypes.