African population taboo Daniel Hayduk/Getty Images

Rethinking the Population Taboo

When French President Emmanuel Macron recently suggested that Africa's problems reflect its high birth rates, he elicited widespread charges of patriarchy and racism. But while Macron's statement got a lot wrong, the real reason he came under attack merits serious attention.

PRINCETON – At a press conference during last month’s G20 summit in Hamburg, a journalist from the Ivory Coast asked French President Emmanuel Macron why the world’s rich countries have not developed a plan to assist Africa in overcoming its problems, as the United States’ Marshall Plan had aided Europe after World War II.

Macron’s reply was lengthy, and much of it made good sense. He pointed out that, unlike post-war Europe, Africa does not require reconstruction; its problems require more sophisticated responses. He referred to Africa’s failed states and difficult transitions to democracy, but also noted that some African countries are making good progress, and have achieved high rates of economic growth.

But Macron also said two things that caused outrage on social media and led to accusations of racism.

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