French President to visit four central Africa nations
French President Emmanuel Macron will next week undertake a four-nation tour of central African countries, as Paris seeks to counter growing Chinese and Russian influence in the region.
Macron is to visit Gabon for an environmental summit, followed by Angola, then the Republic of Congo, and finally the Democratic Republic of Congo.
His visits come as alarm grows in Paris over the growing role of Russia in French-speaking African countries, alongside a Chinese push for influence that has been apparent for some years.
France and its Western allies accuse the Russian Wagner mercenary group of being active in Mali, forcing France to pull out troops on anti-jihadist missions, and the Central African Republic.
Paris has also accused Russia of spreading disinformation to undermine French interests in its former colonies.
Macron will arrive in Gabon on 1st March to attend the One Forest Summit seeking to preserve forests along the vast Congo river basin, according to a French presidential official, asking not to be named.
He will then head to Angola as part of a drive to enhance French ties with Lusophony parts of Africa.
After the Republic of Congo, he will wind up his trip in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo on March 3-4.
Macron has insisted Africa is a priority of his second mandate at the helm of France and in July last year undertook a trip to Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau.
To the frustration of the West, a number of powers in Africa, seeking to keep a neutral stance and preserve their interests, refused to take a position on the Russian offensive like other nations including India and China.