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France says to build 'balanced partnerships' with Africa

By AFP
France French top diplomat Stephane Sejourne began his first visit to Africa on Saturday in Kenya.  By SIMON MAINA AFPFile
SAT, 06 APR 2024 LISTEN
French top diplomat Stephane Sejourne began his first visit to Africa on Saturday in Kenya. By SIMON MAINA (AFP/File)

France will aim to renew ties with Africa and build "balanced partnerships" that are beneficial to the continent, the country's top diplomat Stephane Sejourne said Saturday.

Relations have spiralled downwards between France and some former African colonies as the continent becomes a renewed diplomatic battleground, with Russian and Chinese influence growing.

Appointed in January, Sejourne began his first visit to Africa on Saturday in Kenya and will later head to Rwanda before making a final stop in Ivory Coast.

"France's vocation will be to renew and build balanced, mutually respectful partnerships with African countries, for the benefit of all countries," he said at a press briefing alongside his Kenyan counterpart Musalia Mudavadi.

"That's what our roadmap is all about: diversifying these partnerships and making them beneficial for the countries in which we are going to invest."

Sejourne said Africa was a "priority" of French foreign policy because the "continent is on the way to becoming a cultural, economic and diplomatic power... that will count in the world's balance".

In Kenya, an east African economic powerhouse, France has strengthened its commercial presence, with the number of French companies operating in the country almost tripling from 50 to 140 in a decade.

But a huge trade imbalance in favour of the European nation has cast a shadow on their relations.

"It is a work in progress," said Mudavadi.

"The process of us addressing the trade imbalance requires consistent programmes and join efforts like we are doing," he said, adding that French companies had provided 34,000 direct jobs in Kenya.

The two ministers said they had agreed on areas of cooperation, including sports and transport infrastructure.

They also called for the reform of the global climate financing framework to help poorer countries develop cleanly and adapt to the worsening impacts of climate change.

In December, at COP28, the two countries and Barbados launched a coalition to bring together countries wishing to create, within two years, an international tax capable of raising billions of dollars to help developing countries tackle climate change.

In Rwanda, Sejourne will attend the commemorations of the 30th anniversary of the 1994 genocide that left 800,000 people dead, mostly the minority Tutsi but also Hutu moderates.

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