French President in Africa, a Pilgrimage for Cultural Diplomacy

Pushing forward France’s agenda in East Africa through culture, trade and education

March 18th, 2019
Hoëlenn Ayoul-Guilmard, News from Berlin
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During three days, French President Emmanuel Macron meet with authorities from Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia in an attempt to deepen France’s partnership in East Africa

One of the reasons for such series of visits was to promote France’s agenda to have a privileged place in East Africa, a region coveted by many foreign powers. In several of his speeches, the President was quite critical over China’s fast expanding its foothold on the continent, judging it to be only a one-way partnership as it increases the African indebtedness  while being more beneficial to China than Africa.  Actually, the watchword of these visits was ‘respectful’ partnership as Emmanuel Macron made clear his ambition for France to be the alternative to Chinese investment in the region.

Macron’s East Africa Tour was an opportunity to increase partnership in terms of trade of course but also concerning culture and education.  Indeed, during his time in Ethiopia, Emmanuel Macron visited the Lalibela site, called the ‘’Ethiopian Jerusalem’’, consisting of 11 cave churches, constructed around the 13th century, carved into the rock of the Ethiopian Highlands. This visit took place four months after the Ethiopian Prime Minister requested France’s help during his visit in Paris, resulting in the promise of assistance for the reconstruction and protection of this site. This is a model of ‘’cultural diplomacy in which I believed’’ said the French President Emmanuel Macron. Education was also brought to the table as he emphasized the importance of academic partnership to establish long-term relations between France and Africa with, as he mentioned, an agreement between Sciences-Po and the Kenyan university of Strathmore or the implementation in Nairobi of the video game and design school Rubika.

Emmanuel Macron also seized the opportunity of his trip to Africa to take part of the One planet summit, a platform of discussion and transnational cooperation to meet the challenge of climate change.


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