French foreign policy in East Africa: not without challenges, but promising signs exist

International relations International cooperation Economic development development planning France Africa

In March 2019, President Emmanuel Macron visited Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti as part of a diplomatic outreach to the region, aimed at deepening economic and political ties. On the surface, the visit was important to the policy of enhancing the economic health of France and the East African countries, but there were also underlying motivations, such as wanting to counter China’s growing influence in the region. This analysis looks at the principal motivations behind France’s foreign policy objectives in the region, as well as incentives that lie beneath the surface.

Key points:

  • One of the main components of France’s overall foreign policy is development assistance and sustainability is at the heart of that policy.
  • French development assistance is guided by the desire to fight climate change and boost economic growth, while providing support for gender equality, human rights and peace.
  • France is concerned about the increasing influence of China in the East African region. Its renewed interest there is partly due to a desire to offset China’s gains.
  • While renewing ties with traditional colonial partners, France is also branching out by expanding relations with non-francophone countries.
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