Macron’s West Africa Visit Was Deja Vu Packaged as Transformation

Macron’s West Africa Visit Was Deja Vu Packaged as Transformation
French President Emmanuel Macron meets with Cameroonian President Paul Biya at the presidential palace in Yaounde, Cameroon, July 26, 2022 (Sipa photo by Stephane Lemouton via AP Images).

French President Emmanuel Macron made a three-country visit to West Africa this week, his first to the region since securing reelection to a second term in April. The trip was billed by Paris as Macron’s latest effort to reshape France’s relations with its former colonies in Africa. During his stops in Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau, the themes of security cooperation, commerce, the war in Ukraine, governance and France’s colonial legacy—including its repression of the Cameroonian independence movement and the restitution of artifacts stolen from modern-day Benin during the colonial era—were all on prominent display. Cameroon is a key Western counterterrorism partner in the fight against Boko Haram, while Benin and its neighbors in littoral West Africa have attracted increased international attention amid deepening concerns of a spillover of instability from the Sahel subregion.

Macron’s visit was also the latest in a number of recent high-profile visits by foreign dignitaries to West and Central Africa, and the continent more broadly. It came just as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was himself making stops in Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo. The U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, also visited Egypt this week and is expected in Ethiopia, where he will meet with African Union leaders. Last week, Samantha Power, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, visited Kenya and Somalia.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and King Philippe of Belgium have all visited West and Central Africa in recent weeks. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have also made multi-country visits in Africa this year. And the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, is expected to visit Ghana and Uganda next week, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will make stops in South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda on the second leg of a trip that begins in Southeast Asia next week as well.

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