Emmanuel Macron receives the Central African president: the future of French influence in Africa at stake

17 April 2024 / Radouan Kourak

Emmanuel Macron welcomes his Central African counterpart Faustin-Archange Touadéra to the Élysée this afternoon to discuss the situation in the Central African Republic and various aspects of the bilateral relationship, marked by years of tensions. This meeting takes on particular importance as France seeks to reaffirm its role in the region, while facing increased competition from Russia.

The Élysée announced that the two leaders met for a working lunch to address the current challenges facing the Central African Republic, as well as ways to strengthen cooperation between the two countries. This meeting comes six months after their last exchange, where they expressed their desire to reestablish solid ties after a period of tension.

At the heart of the discussions is the growing presence of the Russian mercenary group Wagner in the Central African Republic, which France has strongly criticized for its alleged abuses and its exploitation of the country's natural resources. This foreign interference has raised concerns within the international community and fueled anti-French sentiment in the region.

In addition, the human rights situation in the Central African Republic remains a source of major concern. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch have expressed concern about the repression of civil society, media, and opposition political parties under Touadéra's regime. Contested constitutional changes, including the possibility of a third term for the sitting president, have also focused attention on the country's democratic health.

Growing Russian influence in Africa, and particularly in the Central African Republic, represents a major challenge for France, traditionally involved in the region. This rise in Russian power is also symbolized by diplomatic and economic actions, such as arms contracts and energy partnerships. Faced with this dynamic, France strives to defend its interests and its influence in Africa by consolidating its historic alliances, strengthening its economic and security cooperation with African countries, and seeking to promote political stability and economic development in the region. This also involves initiatives aimed at countering disinformation and promoting a positive image of its commitment to Africa.

This meeting between Macron and Touadéra is therefore of strategic importance for both countries. It offers an opportunity to renew dialogue and find solutions to common challenges, while seeking to stabilize the situation in the Central African Republic and counter foreign interference. How the two leaders address these issues will largely determine the future of Franco-Central African relations and the balance of power in the region.