According to Wikipedia,
In the 19th century, France established a new empire in Africa and Southeast Asia. In this period France’s conquest of an Empire in Africa was dressed up as a moral crusade. In 1886 Jules Ferry declared; “The higher races have a right over the lower races, they have a duty to civilize the inferior races.” Full citizenship rights – assimilation – were offered, although in reality “assimilation was always receding [and] the colonial populations treated like subjects not citizens.” 
The same attitude that Europeans in general had towards other races at the time. France wound up with control of most of West Africa.
Following the First World War, and even more so after the Second World War, anti-colonial movements began to challenge European authority. France unsuccessfully fought bitter wars in Vietnam and Algeria to keep its empire intact, but by the end of the 1960s many of France’s colonies had gained independence. However, some remaining territories – especially islands and archipelagos – were integrated into France as overseas departments and territories.
This sounds good. But did it really go down this way?
France’s mission civilisatrice left indelible marks on its former territories. Although Francophone African countries acquired statehood and international recognition at independence, they remain the chasse gardée of France. Contrary to expectations, independence did not really alter the lopsided relations France established with its former colonies. Through a web of connections, links, agreements, and pacts, France succeeded in granting a “dependent independence” that continues to haunt African states.