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What's behind Macron's courting of the African diaspora?

By Christina Okello

France has recently made overtures to the African diaspora, inviting them to be the bridge between France and their countries of origin. Critics say it's a move to regain a foothold in the former colonies. But France's African community could leverage its influence to ask for recognition at home.

In France, there are no statistics on "race" or ethnicity. Racial categories that are commonplace in the US and UK such as white, black or Asian don’t exist.

The logic is simple: to avoid racism, avoid categorising people by race and instead treat everyone equally. This is the Republican egalitarian ethos. It is held up in France as a powerful rebuke of the racist ideology propagated by the Nazi regime.

In World War Two, the former collaborationist regime enabled the roundup of thousands of Jews, based on their race and ethnicity.

However, the experience of discrimination felt by some in France's African community has led to growing calls for more visibility of ethnic minorities.

Today, the French government is reaching out to Africans in the diaspora to help it foster greater connections with the African continent.

Paris has lost ground to countries like China in a scramble for influence in this new Eldorado.

President Emmanuel Macron has said that if Africa fails then all of Europe will fail, and wants the diaspora to serve as a buffer. If they play their cards right, France's African community could leverage their influence to ask for more recognition at home. 

So who are they? What are their aspirations? And what effect can the diaspora have on French society? In the coming weeks, RFI's Christina Okello will take you on a journey to explore the rich diversity in France, starting with its African diaspora.

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