After the sale of Bolloré Africa Logistics, Vincent Bolloré's influence in Africa is dwindling. But the French businessman is still a shareholder of Canal+.
After acquisition by Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) of Bolloré Africa Logistics for the record sum of 5,7 billion euros last December, Vincent Bolloré is continuing his withdrawal from the continent. Accustomed to controversies and courts, especially for corruption cases in Togo in Burkina Faso ou in Ghana, to name only a tiny part of the countries in which the French businessman is accused of illegal practices, Bolloré is now making the front page of the financial press, which reports on the promise to purchase, on May 8 , of the French shipowner CMA-CGM which will acquire Bolloré Logistics for 5 billion euros.
A page is therefore turned, with the end of the group's logistics branch. It is, for Africa, quite a symbol: because the businessman, even if he had above all financial ambitions, was one of the last great vestiges of "Francafrique" politics, willingly exchanging concessions in ports in return for services, particularly communications, to African Heads of State. But for some time, it has become difficult to work with Bolloré. A banker, on condition of anonymity, explained at the time of the sale of Bolloré Africa Logistics, that "the international rules to which we are subject prohibit us from contracting with an entity which has recognized its participation in a corruption pact".
Last vestiges of “Francafrique”
For MSC, it's a jackpot, even if it could have cost it very dearly: the group finds itself at the head of 22 port and rail concessions, 66 dry ports and nearly 250 agencies, indicates the newspaper Economic alternatives. But if Bolloré sets foot outside the continent, there will remain some vestiges of the French group, since MSC intends to retain Bolloré's historical partners. But one thing is certain: the African populations will not miss the businessman, the source of many scandals and even certain tragedies, such as that of the rail disaster in Eséka, Cameroon, where the Frenchman was dismissed and was unable, despite a series of trials, to return in force to Douala.
Beyond the simple business aspect, the sale of Bolloré Africa Logistics is good news for democracy: the businessman, via the communication group Havas, headed by his son Yannick, will now find it difficult to help the presidents in place without compensation. But it was better, for Bolloré father, to leave, because the tide has turned for him in recent years, with several of his ex-allies on the departure or who have been overthrown, like Alpha Condé. As for the populations of several African countries, they are now openly hostile to French policy, of which Bolloré was one of the links.
Bolloré, media gentleman
Still, if Vincent Bolloré came out the front door, his wallet full, from the continent, the businessman will inevitably try to come back through the window. With a more discreet presence, but just as powerful. Because the Bolloré group is the majority shareholder of Vivendi, and therefore of Canal+. The channel package is a real institution in Africa. With nearly 8 million subscribers, Canal+ continues to grow in Africa, despite attempts by other groups to steal market share from it. As specified by Economic Alternatives, Bolloré has also invested in Multichoice, in which it has held 30% of the shares since the beginning of the year.
From a vestige of “Françafrique”, Bolloré could therefore become one of the ambassadors of the Francophonie. The television group must deal with the Chinese breakthrough and local channels. The French magazine believes that Canal+ only holds today thanks to the broadcasts of sporting events. But we have seen it in France, we must be wary of Bolloré as a man of the media: during the last presidential election, it was his group that created from scratch far-right candidate Eric Zemmour. With Canal+, Bolloré therefore has another means of influence. Admittedly, less important than when it had port concessions. But the businessman still has a foothold in Africa.