Chad – France cooperation: what is France worth to Chad?

Chad – France cooperation: what is France worth to Chad?
Chad – France cooperation: what is France worth to Chad?

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Image caption, Emmanuel Macron and Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno at the Élysée, February 16, 2023.
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When Jean-Marie Bockel “personal envoy” of the French president, says on March 7, 2024 in Ndjamena; “We must stay and of course we will stay”, speaking of the French military presence in Chad, it certainly reflects the importance of this Central African country for France and its desire to stay there. Driven out of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, France is increasingly persona non grata on the continent. Chad is therefore today France’s last anchor point.

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Militarily, France has had a strong presence in Chad for four decades. This continuous presence began on August 9, 1983. France, through Operation Manta, intervened in Chad at the call of the then president, Hissène Habré. Equipped with 3,500 men, Operation Manta’s mission was to fight against the men of deposed president Goukouni Oueddei and his Libyan allies. If a lull was found with the agreement of September 17, 1984, the rebels of Goukouni Oueddei returned in charge in 1986 and once again at the request of Hissène Habré, Paris launched this time, Operation Épervier in February 1986. Since , France has no longer left Ndjamena.

In 2013, the Épervier system had nearly 950 soldiers assigned to two main bases: air base 172 in N’djamena and Captain Croci base in Abéché, in eastern Chad. Operation Epervier ends in August 2014, followed by Operation Bakharne to support partner Sahel countries which ends in 2022.

A thousand French elements in Chad

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Image caption, Chadian soldiers celebrate during a parade in N’DJamena on May 9, 2021.

However, French elements in Chad are still present in the territory. They are estimated at nearly a thousand who have, among other missions, guaranteed the protection of French interests and its nationals living in the country, providing logistical support and intelligence support to the Chadian armed forces, in accordance with the agreement of cooperation signed between the two countries.

The main base of the French army in Chad is in N’Djamena. Faya and Abéché are home to the other two bases. The bases consist of fighter planes, transport planes and helicopters. A land projection force is also present with armored vehicles and men.

France, main importer of Chadian gum arabic

Despite its position as the fifth largest economy in CEMAC (Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa) with a GDP estimated at EUR 11 billion in 2022 (11.3% of total GDP), Chad is also a great attraction for France. economic, mainly in the gum arabic sector. According to the regional economic service of the French Embassy in Cameroon, gum arabic represents an important component of Franco-Chadian bilateral trade. According to a review by the said institution which dates from 2018, “more than 40% of exports by volume of gum arabic from Chad are destined for France. These increased by 5.1% in value between 2016 and 2017 and they represented 94% of total French imports from Chad in 2017.” In the same magazine, it is said that “Chad represents France’s second supplier with respectively 11% of volumes and 14% in value in 2017.”

It should perhaps be noted that gum arabic occupies a major place in Chadian society and economy. According to SOS Sahel, the country is the fourth largest producer in the world. It represents a Source of additional income for more than 500,000 people in the sector and is mainly produced in four regions in the West and East of the country (Chari Baguirmi, Hadjer Lamis, Guéra and Salamat).

Furthermore, according to the French Directorate of Economic Diplomacy, Chad is France’s 86th trading partner, its 116th customer and its 77th supplier. It represents 0.014% of France’s exports to the world.

Within the Africa-Indian Ocean region, the country is France’s 23rd customer, its 7th supplier and its 4th deficit. It represents 0.74% of exports in the region.

Economically, Chad is therefore an area that must not be lost. This, especially since France has lost its foothold in the economy of certain countries neighboring Chad. This is the case of Cameroon, where France has lost 30% of market share in thirty years. Confidence made in June 2021 by Christophe Guilhou. The French ambassador to Cameroon at the time spoke on June 24, 2021 to students of the Institute of International Relations of Cameroon (Iric), as part of a concept called “Diplomatic Forum”.

The Chadian economy is very dependent on oil production. Its production which began in 2003 allowed the country to experience a period of rapid growth until 2014 when the average annual growth rate was 13.7%. Alongside oil, we have areas such as livestock breeding, the country’s second largest export, but also the cultivation of cereals, cotton, sesame and the collection of gum arabic which constitutes its third export product after oil and cotton. The cotton sector has seen an improvement since the takeover, in 2018, of the public company CotonTchad by the Singaporean group Olam.

The manufacturing industry occupies a marginal place and is mainly based on the production of beer and soft drinks, the production of sugar, and cotton ginning and a few cement factories.

Imports consisting of hydrocarbons

With the fall in oil prices in 2014-2015, Chad will experience an economic slowdown. And according to the French Treasury, this slowdown will influence the volume of exports from France to the country. “French exports to Chad fell from 130.8 million to 77.2 million EUR between 2015 and 2018, a drop of 40.9%. After a slight recovery in 2019/2020, driven by exports from the agri-food industries, they reached a low point of EUR 70.7 million in 2021. In 2022, French exports to Chad will start to rise again, marking an increase of +12.9% to reach EUR 78.8 million,” we can read on the website of the French Ministry of the Economy.

A little further, we learn that “French imports from Chad, almost entirely made up of hydrocarbons, and very volatile, more than doubled in 2022 compared to 2021 (x2.35) and stood at 397, 5 M EUR. The levels reached over the last 3 years are already historically high (respectively EUR 73 million, EUR 287 million, and EUR 169 million in 2019, 2020 and 2021), the amount of imports in 2022 has reached a record level. Hydrocarbons represent 95.8% of the amount of our imports. The second item of imports, agricultural, forestry, fishing and aquaculture products, also experienced a sharp increase with an amount having doubled between 2021 and 2022 (respectively 5.5M EUR and 16.4M EUR ). In 2022, our trade balance with Chad is therefore, for the third consecutive time, in a significant deficit, at -EUR 318 million. »

Photo credit, Getty Images

Image caption, Chadian President Idriss Deby (holding the crank) with the Director of Esso Chad, Ron Royal, Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso, Sudanese Omar al-Bechir, and Central African President Francois Bozizé, during the inauguration of the field tanker from Kome on October 10, 2003.

Around twenty French companies

France’s exports to Chad mainly consist of mechanical equipment and electronic equipment (which represent more than 1/3 of total exports), perfumes and cosmetics representing (second largest export item), chemical products, transport equipment and pharmaceutical products.

Still according to the French Ministry of the Economy, there are around twenty French companies “in the agri-food, construction, trade, distribution of petroleum products, or even logistics and equipment sectors, to which In addition, there are a few local companies owned by French nationals, mainly in catering and services. » We can cite: Compagnie Sucrière du Tchad (Somdiaa group), Brasseries Du Tchad (Castel group), TotalEnergies, Tractafric in equipment, Nexira in the export of gum arabic, and even Air France. In 2022, the Franco-British group Perenco entered oil production with the takeover of Glencore’s assets.

According to French Customs data, Franco-Chadian trade increased from 131 million Euros in 2015 to 79 million in 2022 in terms of exports and imports from 40 to 397 over the same period. And data from the Banque de France shows that the stock of French FDI (direct investment abroad in millions of Euros) increased from 98 in 2014 to 111 in 2019.

Strong cultural cooperation

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Image caption, A pedestrian walks past the monument at Place de la Nation in N’Djamena, Chad, Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

Talking about France-Chad cooperation also means talking about cultural exchange between the two countries. As is the case in all countries where it is established, the French Institute is an essential instrument in cultural cooperation from France to Chad. French Institute of Chad (IFT) is established in Chad after its independence and is placed under the authority of the French embassy and more specifically attached to the cultural service. Objective: to give Chadian artists the opportunity to express themselves in France as well as French artists to perform in Chad.

A mission that is carried out through activities such as concerts, film screenings, various shows around dance and theater. But the IFT also houses the offices of Campus France Tchad, a department of the French embassy responsible for promoting French higher education abroad. A bit like in other areas, the French Institute of Chad has for some time had to face competition from “Russkiy Dom”, the very first Russian cultural center in Chad inaugurated in November 2024.

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