Cameroon-France: Why Macron is coming

By Clarisse Juompan-Yakam and Georges Dougueli

Emmanuel Macron lands in Yaounde on July 25, around 8 p.m., and shall stay at the Hilton hotel. The French president is making this trip, among others, on the advice of Jean-Yves Le Drian. The latter, when he was still Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, worked  with Emmanuel de Tailly, foreign trade adviser, close to former Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and CEO of the SABC group until last June 30 .

Economic issues will of course be on the menu of discussions, while a meeting with employers, led by Célestin Tawamba, is, according to our information, planned.

France in competition

Emmanuel Macron arrives in Cameroon a few days after the SABC group, a subsidiary of the French Castel, bought for FCFA 300 billion (457.3 million euros) its competitor Guinness Cameroon SA, itself a subsidiary of the British Diageo. The operation awaits the approval of the Cameroonian authorities as voices are raised to denounce a de facto monopoly on the market for beer and soft drinks.

Presidents Paul Biya and Emmanuel Macron in friendly handshake

The Head of State also expects from his counterpart Paul Biya, with whom he will meet at the Etoudi Palace on July 26. His support for the Francophonie economic pool project, which is based on Cameroon and the DRC. France is indeed preparing for the entry into force of the treaty on the African Continental Free Trade Area (Zlecaf), which redefines Africa’s position on the market, as well as its relations with third world countries. In Cameroon, the Zlecaf will put French companies in the face of greater competition with Nigerian, Chinese, Turkish and Indian companies.

Meeting with the Opposition

With Paul Biya, in addition to security issues, there will also be talk of Russia. Moscow’s influence is growing in Central Africa, neighboring Central Africa and moreover in Cameroon, which was absent from all United Nations votes on the invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, on April 12, Yaoundé signed a new defense agreement with Russia, for a renewable period of five years.

But politics will not be outdone. Macron should express the wish that Biya release English-speaking detainees, in particular those arrested before 2017, who were in favor of a return to two-state federalism and who were not violent, like Mancho Bibixy, Penn Terence or even Felix Galim. Regarding the President of the “Republic of Ambazonia”, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, it would be a question for the French to request his transfer from Kondengui for house arrest. They will also push Yaoundé to negotiate with English-speaking secessionists and the diaspora.

According to our sources, Emmanuel Macron will also meet opposition leaders Maurice Kamto, Cabral Libii and John Fru Ndi on July 26 . All three will come to this meeting, scheduled at the French Embassy, with a common request: the reform of the electoral code. The French president will then visit the complex founded by ex-tennis player Yannick Noah, before flying to Cotonou on July 27.

In Benin, where discussions will focus more on issues of heritage and restitution, Emmanuel Macron will discuss the creation of the Foundation for Innovation and Democracy, which will be launched on October 6 in Johannesburg. The Cameroonian historian Achille Mbembe, who accompanies him on his trip, would be its first director. This structure will have three sub-regional hubs and its activities will begin in the first quarter of 2023.

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