New “posture” of France in Africa? This Monday, February 27, at 5:00 p.m., the French President will deliver a major speech from the Élysée Palace to define the objectives of his four-day trip to Central Africa from March 1 to 5. On the other hand, popular hostility to the French military presence is growing on the African coast, revealed by mass demonstrations in Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso, against Paris and its policy in the region.
This Monday, February 27, at 5:00 p.m., the French President will deliver a major speech from the Élysée Palace to define the objectives of his four-day trip to Central Africa from March 1 to 5. This is the second trip to sub-Saharan Africa by the President since his re-election. He visited Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau in July. This time, four countries are on the agenda: Gabon, Angola, Congo Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Bringing the Euro-African axis to life
Through these visits, Emmanuel Macron intends to “bring to life the Euro-African axis“, in a period of “acute awareness of the risk of fragmentation of the world and the risk of fracture under the effect of the consequences of the war in Ukraine”, said the Elysee to the press, ahead of this week.
On August 15, the anti-terrorist operation “Barkhane” in Mali ended, leaving a strong anti-French sentiment and an increasingly pervasive Russian influence. On February 23, Mali was one of four African countries to oppose the UN resolution to condemn Russian aggression in Ukraine. Gabon, which will be visited by Emmanuel Macron, abstained. “This confirms the importance of talking to each other because the purpose of diplomacy is not to talk only with those with whom we agree on everything, but also to talk about the major strategic issues before us,” said the French presidency in this regard.
Establish economic, cultural and ecological partnerships…
“At a time when the Barkhane operation is coming to an end and when we are developing our mechanism on the African continent, this is a window of opportunity to deploy a fully partnership agenda,” it is promised, while a large delegation of politicians, business leaders or scientists is announced alongside Emmanuel Macron.
Cooperation on Ecology
Among the topics to be discussed during this trip and for this renewed partnership: ecology, with a summit on the forest organized in Libreville, Gabon on March 1 and 2. “There will be no victory in the fight against climate change or in the preservation of biodiversity without the support of Africa,” warns the Élysée, which is pleased with this “One Forest Summit” in which Ecology Minister Christophe Béchu will participate on the French side.
Other issues: agriculture, “the central theme” of the visit to Angola, culture at the center of discussions in Brazzaville (Republic of Congo) and Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), but also security issues that will be “placed in the context of a broader partnership.
Another novelty claimed on the French side is the fact that they are coming “as a team” and not making this trip “a solitary exercise for the president,” says the Élysée. First with this delegation in charge of establishing possible partnerships, but also by the presence of European Commissioners, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, such as Frenchman Thierry Breton, in charge of the internal market, and Finnish Jutta Urpilainen, in charge of international partnerships, who will attend the economic exchanges.
Finally, the desire to “correct the impression of abandonment or neglect” of France, particularly in Congo Brazzaville or Gabon, is claimed while “it has been a long time since a president of the French Republic has visited these countries. The Élysée Palace puts forward “a signal of consideration” and hopes for a partnership “not only with the authorities, but also with the populations, the entrepreneurs of these countries, the artists, the committed people”. Far, far away from Operation Barkhane.
Is Macron seeking new influence in Central Africa?
This Monday, February 27, at 5:00 p.m., the French President will deliver a major speech from the Élysée Palace to define the objectives of his four-day trip to Central Africa from March 1 to 5.
The African continent has been experiencing a multilateral international influence struggle for years, including Russia, which has become the source of great pain for France in the Sahel and West African countries, after Moscow, through the Wagner Group, exerted its influence in Central Africa and Mali, and seeks to expand it in partnership with the new military regime in Burkina Faso.
On the other hand, popular hostility to the French military presence is growing on the African coast, revealed by mass demonstrations in Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso, against Paris and its policy in the region.
China, which has also become a player on the brown continent, has set its sights on the Gulf of Guinea, as revealed by U.S. intelligence reports indicating Beijing’s intention to establish its first permanent military presence on the Atlantic Ocean, in the small central African country of Equatorial Guinea.
China’s ambitions in the Gulf of Guinea are based on what a Chinese presence there means to the Americans, which is to obtain an outlet on the Atlantic Ocean, opposite the U.S. eastern seaboard, that will allow Chinese warships to refuel and arm them more easily and quickly, and facilitate their maintenance and increase their combat readiness in ocean waters.
In addition to allowing Beijing to get its hands on the oil reserves that abound in the region, it will also remain at one of the most important historical junctions of shipping lines between the north, south and west of the continent and the world.
Macron’s visit comes in response to the visits of Russian Sergei Lavrov
Thus, in the midst of the ongoing clash of elephants, France is seeking to gather its seemingly scattered cards. This is confirmed by Chadian analyst and journalist Mohamed Taher Zein, in his interview with FLA, stating, “Macron’s visit comes in response to the visits of Russian Sergei Lavrov in recent weeks to Mali, Mauritania and Sudan, in an attempt to find the space that can be played in the coming period as part of a strategy of restoring prestige and imposing control over the area.
“Thus”, adds the Chadian analyst, “the issue is not devoid of Russian, French, Chinese and American competition over the region, which is full of important gold and diamond reserves”, and “France is working in various ways to restore its influence after having lost the bet in Mali, Central African Republic and Burkina Faso, hence what is happening now, deeply rooted in the ongoing conflict of geopolitical interests.