French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Gabon on Wednesday, beginning a four-day tour of Central Africa.
Touching down in the capital Libreville, Macron will travel to Angola, Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. His aim is to test new "partnerships" against growing anti-French sentiment on the continent.
The French President's visit has been met with controversy, with the opposition back home accusing him of endorsing President Ali Bongo, controversially elected in 2016 and likely to be re-elected this year.
Two days before this eighteenth trip to Africa since the beginning of his tenure in 2017, Macron outlined in Paris his African strategy for the next four years.
Noting a growing hostility towards France, a former colonial power in Africa, he called for a "new relationship, balanced, reciprocal and responsible" with the continent.
He announced a reduction of the French military presence, concentrated for ten years on the fight against jihadism in the Sahel, which has become the embodiment of the colonial legacy in the eyes of local youth eager for "new" independence.
"Africa is not a pre-square," he said, advocating a "posture of modesty and listening" in the extension of his speech in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in November 2017.
"Our interest is first and foremost democracy," he insisted, promising also to "defend the economic interests" of France where many countries, from China to Turkey, are moving forward.
Since August 2022, the French army has been pushed out of Mali and Burkina Faso by the juntas in power in these two countries. It also left the Central African Republic in December, where it had intervened to end inter-ethnic violence.
Macron will also sign an agreement to develop the agricultural sector in Angola on Friday, meeting his counterparts from Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo on the way.