Next week, French President Emmanuel Macron will visit four Central African countries as Paris seeks to stem growing Chinese and Russian influence in the region.
Macron will visit Gabon for an environmental summit, followed by Angola, then the Republic of the Congo and finally the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
His visits come amid growing concerns in Paris over Russia’s growing role in French-speaking African countries, along with Chinese pressures of influence that have been apparent in recent years.
France and its western allies accuse the Russian mercenary group Wagner of operating in Mali, which has forced France to withdraw its troops from anti-jihadist missions, and in the Central African Republic.
Paris also accused Russia of spreading disinformation to undermine French interests in its former colonies.
Macron will arrive in Gabon on March 1 for the One Forest Summit, which aims to conserve forests along the vast Congo River basin, according to a French presidential official, who asked not to be identified.
He then went to Angola as part of a campaign to strengthen France’s ties with the Portuguese-speaking parts of Africa.
After the Republic of the Congo, he will end his trip March 3-4 in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Macron has insisted that Africa is a priority in his second term as France’s boss, and in July last year he made trips to Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau.
To the frustration of the West, several powers in Africa, trying to maintain a neutral stance and protect their interests, have refused to join the Russian offensive, as have other countries, including India and China.