From rivalry to partnership? critical reflections on Anglo-French cooperation in Africa

G. Cumming, Tony Chafer

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At the December 1998 Saint-Malo summit, Britain and France promised to set aside past rivalries and work together on African issues. While brief indications were given as to possible areas of bilateral and ‘bi-multi’ cooperation, the terms and scope of this ‘partnership’ were not spelt out. Was this to involve only sporadic collaboration? Or was it to be an institutionalised partnership, such as the Franco-German tandem, or perhaps a more intuitive alliance, such as the Anglo-American ‘special relationship’? These questions are central to this article, which begins by showing how Anglo-French relations in Africa were largely marked by rivalry from the colonial era to the early post-Cold War period. Drawing upon extensive interviews, it demonstrates how, over the last decade or so, closer linkages have developed between the UK and French administrations and how there has been a greater degree of cooperation in response to the key challenges of Africa. It then uses a neo-classical realist framework to explain the readiness or reluctance of Britain and France to collaborate on Africa. It concludes by suggesting that, while there has been progress in ‘deconflictualising’ African policies, cooperation has been, and is likely to remain, limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2439-2463
Number of pages25
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


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