Traversing three capital cities in hours, French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday, March 3, pursued his African tour aimed at renewing frayed ties. In the Angolan capital Luanda, Macron chaired an economic forum, attended by more than 50 French companies, and focused on agriculture.
“This fits in with the idea I have of this economic partnership between the African continent and France,” Macron told around 100 delegates.
“Mindsets have changed,” he said, adding France wanted to find solutions that benefited both parts, rather than “impose ready-made” ones. France has for decades been involved in the petroleum industry in the Portuguese-speaking southern African country, which is one of the continent’s top two crude oil producers.
Macron’s visit offered an opportunity to explore cooperation in other areas. The two governments penned an agreement to boost Angola’s agricultural sector, particularly “climate resilience and water security” in addition to helping revamp the coffee industry, said Macron.
Angola, which imports a large share of the food it consumes, wants to strengthen its “sovereignty” and find new sources of income in the sector, according to the French presidency.
Macron was due to meet his Angolan counterpart, Joao Lourenço, before heading to the neighboring Republic of Congo. The visit comes as part of a drive to enhance French ties with Anglophone and Portuguese-speaking Africa.
He arrived in Luanda late Thursday from Gabon on the second leg of his tour. Anti-French sentiment runs high in some former African colonies as the continent becomes a renewed diplomatic battleground, with Russian and Chinese influence growing.
On Thursday Macron said the era of French interference in Africa had ended and there was no desire to return to the past.
“The age of Francafrique is well over,” Macron said in Gabon’s capital Libreville, referring to the post-colonization strategy of supporting authoritarian leaders to defend Paris’ interests.
After leaving Luanda, Macron will head to the Congo, another former French colony, where Denis Sassou-Nguesso has ruled with an iron fist for almost four decades. On Thursday, Congolese rights groups asked the French president to relay their concerns to Sassou-Nguesso and pleaded for the release of former presidential candidates Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko and Andre Okombi Salissa.
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The pair were each jailed for 20 years in 2016 for endangering state security after they ran against Sassou-Nguesso in disputed presidential elections that were followed by violence. Macron will go on to visit the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which was ruled by Belgium during the colonial era.
President Felix Tshisekedi has been at the helm of DRC since January 2019, but he is up for re-election later this year, and here too the opposition has voiced reservations about the French leader’s visit. The DRC accuses its smaller neighbor Rwanda of backing the M23 rebel group in the east of the country, a charge denied by Kigali.
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Dozens of young Congolese demonstrators holding Russian flags rallied outside the French embassy in the capital Kinshasa on Wednesday to denounce Macron’s visit. France and Western allies accuse the Russian mercenary group Wagner, which is heavily involved in fighting in Ukraine, of being active in Mali and the Central African Republic, also once ruled by France.