French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday pursued his African tour aimed at renewing frayed ties, inking an economic accord with Angola.
In the Angolan capital Luanda, Macron held talks with his counterpart Joao Lourenco, singling the oil-rich country as the “strategic partner in the region”.
Macron, who had earlier chaired an economic forum attended by more than 50 French companies, told a joint conference with Lourenco that at the “heart of this visit is the strengthening of agricultural partnerships” with Angola.
France, he said, is seeking to “build a balanced and reciprocal partnership” with Angola.
“This fits in with the idea I have of this economic partnership between the African continent and France,” Macron told around 100 delegates earlier.
“Mindsets have changed,” he said, adding France wanted to find solutions that benefited both parties, 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 crude oil producers.
Macron’s visit offered an opportunity to explore cooperation in other sectors.
The two governments penned an agreement to boost Angola’s agricultural sector, particularly “climate resilience and water security”, in addition to helping revamp coffee, soya, cotton and dairy production, among other sectors.
The goal should be to develop a “made-in-Africa strategy”, he said.
Macron’s visit comes as part of a drive to enhance French ties with anglophone and Portuguese-speaking Africa.
– Anti-French sentiment –
He arrived in Luanda late Thursday from Gabon, and is due in Brazzaville later Friday before winding up his tour in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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-colonisation strategy of supporting authoritarian leaders to defend French interests.
Macron later heads to Congo-Brazzaville, 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.
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 neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, which was ruled by Belgium during the colonial era.
But there have been reservations about the French leader’s visit.
Dozens of young Congolese demonstrators holding Russian flags rallied outside the French embassy in Kinshasa on Wednesday to denounce Macron’s visit.
On the eve of his arrival in Kinshasa, 20 citizens’ movements wrote in a statement that Macron “is not welcome to the DR Congo”.
In a separate statement, some 150 NGOs demanded that Macron backs “calls for sanctions” against Rwanda, and “help the DRC organise its self-defence”.
The DRC accuses its smaller neighbour Rwanda of backing the M23 rebel group in the east of the country, a charge denied by Kigali.
Macron also praised Lourenco for his mediation efforts in trying to de-escalate tension between Rwanda and the DRC.
France and Western allies accuse Russian mercenary group Wagner, heavily involved in fighting in Ukraine, of being active in Mali and the Central African Republic, also once ruled by France.
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