How Meloni’s video uses the distress of Africans to play into EU’s debates to block migrants

By Damien Glez
Posted on Friday, 25 November 2022 15:42

By Damine Glez

In a video unearthed after her accession to power, Giorgia Meloni, the current president of Italy’s ministerial council, criticises France's policy in Africa.

As the realm of immediacy and spontaneity, the Internet is also a repository of archives that some would like to see disappear. Supporters of the current head of the Italian government were confronted with a video in which she described the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini as a “good politician” in 1996, one of the many mistakes of her youth that she regrets.

Another interview with Giorgia Meloni in January 2019 was dug out of the digital drawers. The community managers of the far-right party Fratelli d’Italia posted an interview in which the Italian politician criticises, as the audience applauds, France’s presence in Africa.

On the Italian channel LA7, Meloni unfolds a CFA franc that she presents as “colonial currency” designed to exploit “14 African nations”, including children in Burkina Faso who “slip into tunnels” to mine gold that “ends up largely in the French state’s coffers”.

Re-posted online last Friday by the US far right, the video demonstrates the opportunism of the nationalist international. A diplomatic crisis emerged between Paris and Rome following the verbal ping-pong over the ‘Ocean Viking’ ship that was carrying illegal immigrants from Africa.

In addition to being a cheap dig at Emmanuel Macron, Giorgia Meloni’s compassion for the Burkinabe children is less of a gesture coming from an Afrophile humanity, but rather an attempt to demonstrate the effects of French policy on migratory vocations. Once again, the distress of certain Africans is used in European-European debates with the intention, in the end, to block the path of the very migrants they claim to pity.

Anachronistic legacy

In addition to ideological opportunism, the video demonstrates populists’ unabashed use of ‘alternative truths’. Even in 2019, when the 50% deposit of the foreign exchange reserves of countries using CFA francs in a French Treasury account had not yet been abolished, there was no question of introducing the type of ‘tax’ that Meloni denounces. The French treasury never absorbed the sums deposited.

The CFA, originally called the ‘franc of Africa’s French colonies’, is in fact an anachronistic legacy of France’s colonial past. However, this kind of outrage hardly helps the peaceful attempts at monetary transformation. As for the example of the mines whose wealth France mainly accrues, the content of this speech was not well-researched.

Although gold exploitation certainly doesn’t help Burkina Faso’s GDP, the precious metal is mostly exported to Switzerland, India, Uganda, the UAE and Belgium. It is however not exported to France, which is the target of this viral video.

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options