396.1 LO/4–2050

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Hare)


Subject: French Plans for the Discussions on Africa at the Foreign Ministers Meeting.1

Participants: Mr. Gabriel Van Laethem, Second Secretary, French Embassy
Mr. E. A. Hare, Deputy Assistant Secretary, NEA
Mr. E. H. Bourgerie, Deputy Director, ANE
Mr. S. K. C. Kopper, Officer in Charge, Northern Africa Affairs
[Page 1539]

A. Problem:

French Plans for the Discussions on Africa at the Foreign Ministers Meeting.

B. Action Required: None.

Mr. Van Laethem called on me at his own request at noon today to make known to the Department informally and unofficially what the French Foreign Office had in mind to take up at the May Foreign Ministers meeting on the subject of Africa. Van Laethem commenced by saying that the French Embassy here had received a personal letter from M. Monod, Head of the African Department of the Foreign Office, which described the informal thinking of the French officials dealing with this question. Van Laethem referred to a recent conversation covering this subject between M. Monod, La Tour du Pin, and Mr. Utter in Paris.2

Van Laethem spoke from M. Monod’s letter which contained the following points: Further political deterioration in Africa should be avoided. The Communists have attempted to penetrate in Africa, so far, without success. However, the Western European powers in Africa should coordinate their plans to prevent any Communist entry. The French believe that large scale economic and social development in Africa should be instituted “right now”. In Africa there is more time to plan on a priority basis.

Van Laethem continued by saying that the French Foreign Office believed a combined effort on the part of the European Nations with interests in Africa was necessary to start economic cooperation. There should be a combined pool to develop the resources of Africa. In this connection the United States, which has manifested an interest through the announcement of its technical assistance program, might be of assistance.

[Page 1540]

French officials do not expect that it will be possible to start profitable enterprises in Africa immediately. It would be necessary to put a large amount of money in enterprises which are nonprofitable, i.e., such as railroads, harbors, transportation facilities, in order to give Africa an economic structure to develop. Africa must have such a structure before private investment could be expected to participate in any large scale. He reiterated that for the time being many of these development projects could not be expected to be profitable.

Van Laethem then voiced his personal opinion based in what he had understood from other communications and discussions that the French believe that Point Four has definite limitations and would not be sufficient in itself to develop French, Belgian and United Kingdom territories in Africa. The main element it is lacking is capital. Thus the main effort should be to get a great amount of capital. Point Four would not cover this. He said that private capital would probably not want to come when there was no prospect of profitable return. He said the French officials wished to take up in London the necessity for the European nations to coordinate their efforts in the development of Africa. Eventually America might join in this combined effort.

I thanked Van Laethem very much for letting us have this information and said that it would be extremely useful to us.

Raymond A. Hare
  1. Regarding the meetings in May in London of the U.S., British, and French Foreign Ministers, see the editorial note, p. 1541.
  2. The conversation under reference here, involving Guy Monod, Head of the African Division of the Office of African-Levant Affairs of the French Foreign Ministry, Geoffroy de La Tour du Pin Verclause, Head of the Suboffice for Protectorates of the Office of African-Levant Affairs of the French Foreign Ministry, and John E. Utter, Second Secretary in the Embassy in France, was apparently reported upon in telegram 1911, April 25, from Paris, not printed. Monod and La Tour du Pin emphasized that the social and economic development of African territories under European tutelage ought to precede the political liberation of peoples. Too rapid emancipation without proper means of livelihood would create misery and invite Communism. The French officials had in mind a giant economic and social program for Africa, established by the European powers but largely financed by the United States (870.00/4–2550).

    Van Laethem called at the Department of State on May 1 and May 2 to discuss further the question of the future of Africa. During those interviews, Samuel Kopper outlined American attitude and interest in the future of Africa as set forth in document FM D D–4, April 18, p. 1524 (Memorandum of two conversations by Kopper, May 1 and 2: 770.00/5–250).