President Emmanuel Macron of France kicked off Monday a four-day tour in Eastern Africa with the first leg in Djibouti followed by Ethiopia and Kenya where the French leader will co-chair UN-sponsored One Planet Summit.
The trip to Djibouti, a French former colony, is the first in a decade by a French President after Sarkozy in 2007. Djibouti has emerged as a strategic territory for the EU-member.
“France considered Djibouti for too long to be a territory that was won,” a senior French diplomat based in the region told Reuters. “But now the competition from China is fierce.”
The country in the horn of Africa has seen an increasing Chinese presence with millions of dollars injected in economic investment and military ramp-up.
During the 12-hour stop in Djibouti, Macron will sign economic and military agreements to bolster France’s presence alongside US and Chinese military presence.
The French leader will continue his tour with a Tuesday visit to Ethiopia where he is expected to hold business and culture talks with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The two leaders will travel to the northern of Lalibela, recognized by UNESCO for its 13th century rock-hewn churches.
Marcon had pledged in October during Ahmed’s visit to France to help renovate the churches now struggling with erosion caused by mass tourism.
The French leader will wrap up his Ethiopian tour with a visit to Ethiopia’s France-trained first female President Sahle-Work Zewde.
A visit to the African Union (AU) headquarters to discuss sustainable development, will mark Macron’s last activity in the Addis Ababa.
The visit on Wednesday to Kenya, the last leg of his African tour, will be the first by a French President to the eastern country. On arrival, Macron and his host President Uhuru Kenyatta will head to Nairobi central railway station where France intends to work on a rapid train service, RFI reports.
The two leaders on Thursday will chair the One Planet Summit to gather more than 4,700 people, including heads of state, ministers and business leaders to explore creative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production.