PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron embarked on a three-nation tour of Africa Monday.
The four-day visit to Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau is the French leader’s first diplomatic trip outside of Europe since winning re-election, showing how Africa is high on the list of priorities for the former colonial power.
On the agenda will be common challenges such as the fight against terrorism and combating climate change.
But Macron will also discuss the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine, such as ballooning inflation and the cost of living and a likely food crisis due to halts on Ukraine’s key exports of wheat, barley and sunflower oil. Russia and Ukraine provide over 40% of Africa’s wheat supply.
The visit is seen as shoring up bilateral cooperation for France at a time when Russian officials have also been visiting African nations in moves to rally support. Of particular concern are links in the wider African region — including in the Central African Republic and Mali — to the Russian paramilitary organization the Wagner Group that is seen by the EU as a destabilizing force.
In his first stop in Cameroon — central Africa’s biggest economy and an agricultural hub — Macron will discuss food production and how the country will try to fill the Ukraine-linked supply vacuum in the region.
In Benin, where he will arrive Wednesday, Macron will discuss ways to combat an increase in terrorist threats and to prevent it from spilling into countries in the Gulf of Guinea.
While in Guinea-Bissau, Macron’s final stop Thursday, he will explore plans to build a French school on local government designated land.
Macron hopes to build on the roadmap set out at February’s EU-Africa Summit for increased European Union investment in African infrastructure and agriculture.