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France's Macron heads to Africa in bid to improve ties

Macron has called for a 'mutual and responsible relationship' with Africa

Macron has called for a 'mutual and responsible relationship' with Africa

French President Emmanuel Macron begins a five-day trip to Africa on Wednesday.

He is expected to visit Gabon, Angola, the Republic of Congo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The trip comes as relations between Paris and several African nations have been put to the test, in particular in the Sahel, where France has troops stationed in the fight against terrorism.

A number of African countries were once colonies of France and had maintained close ties with Paris, but recently Macron has had to contend with rising Russian and Chinese influence.

Prior to the trip, Macron announced the withdrawal of more soldiers from Africa, adding that the troop strength is to be visibly reduced.

Macron also called for a "mutual and responsible relationship" with the continent of more than 50 countries, including on climate issues.

"To measure our influence through a number of military operations, to rest on exclusive privileged ties with certain leaders, or to consider that certain economic markets are rightfully ours because we were there before — these are things of the past," Macron said, urging for a new approach to Africa policy in Paris.

What's on the agenda?

The French president's first stop will be Gabon, where he is to attend the One Forest Summit, a meeting to address global forest preservation. In particular, the vast Congo River basin will be discussed.

The forests of Central Africa represent the planet's second-largest carbon sink after the Amazon. They are home to a large biodiversity, including forest elephants and gorillas, and bear traces of the settlement of early humanity.

But they face threats to their existence from poaching, deforestation for the oil palm and rubber industries, and illegal logging and mineral exploitation.

Macron will then head to Angola, Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo in a bid to improve bilateral relations with each of those nations.

jcg/nm (AFP, Reuters)