Editor’s Note: March 12, 2019

What is France doing in East Africa?

French president Emmanuel Macron is on a four-day Africa trip this week, visiting Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

The choice of East Africa is notable. With the exception of Djibouti, France has no former colonies and little influence in the region. 

It’s the latest illustration of Macron’s stated ambition to move beyond ‘Françafrique’, as Paris’s relationship with Africa is know. This has long been characterized by close and opaque relations with ruling elites in West, Central and North Africa.

Macron has pledged a more contemporary approach, visiting the continent seven times since taking office in May 2017. The policy has been met with scepticism, particularly in former colonies, where France’s influence is often viewed as negative.

Yet visiting two of East Africa’s leading economies suggests there is more to it than rhetoric. Macron is the first sitting French president to visit Kenya since its independence in 1963.

Driving the interest is a mix of growing competition from the likes of China, strategic rivalry in the Horn of Africa, and business.

In March 2018 a major French business delegation visited Kenya, with talk of up to $10bn of investment into the country. Macron will again be joined by members of the business community in Addis Ababa and Nairobi.

It’s a trend worth watching.

From The Continent

Algeria’s president Abdelaziz Bouteflika has said he will not seek a fifth term, following unprecedented protests against his 20-year rule. He also announced that presidential elections scheduled for April 18 will be postponed until after a national conference on constitutional and political reform to be held by the end of 2019. More: Al Jazeera

Sudan’s parliament on Monday voted to shorten a state of emergency declared by embattled president Omar al-Bashir from a year to six months. This comes amid widespread protests against his 31-year rule. More: Al Arabiya

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Zambia’s external debt at the end of 2018, up from $8.74bn the previous year. More: Reuters

The Global Perspective

Benin has reportedly mandated Citigroup, Societe Generale and Natixis SA to help market the West African country’s first Eurobond sale. This comes amid growing concerns about debt sustainability on the continent. More: Bloomberg

State-controlled Qatar Petroleum has reached an agreement with Italy’s Eni to acquire a 25.5% stake in an offshore exploration block in Mozambique. The southern African country is home to some of the world’s largest untapped gas reserves. More: Oil&Gas Journal

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