President Emmanuel Macron of France is due to arrive in Addis Ababa today for a two-day state visit to Ethiopia. President Macron embarked on a four-day tour of East Africa on Monday evening, during which he will visit Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya.
The French president will kick off his tour with a 12-hour stop in Djibouti and a meeting with President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh. “We’re also going to East Africa because it’s a competitive region, especially with China. We’re coming with a different, more positive project that is perhaps a little less purely mercantile,” the Élysée added.
Macron’s next stop will be neighboring Ethiopia, still reeling after this weekend’s deadly plane crash outside of the capital Addis Ababa.
The French president will begin his visit with a trip to the northern town of Lalibela, known for its stunning 13th century rock-hewn churches that were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978. Macron promised Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in October that he would propose plans to restore and renovate the churches, currently threatened by erosion caused by mass tourism.
Lalibela locals hope that Macron and Ahmed’s visit will result in a new plan, money, and expertise for the complex’s renewal.
Macron will then meet with Ethiopia’s first female president Sahle-Work Zewde, and the only current female African head of state, elected in October last year. Sahle-Work has a longstanding personal relationship with France. She attended university in the southern French city of Montpellier before later serving as Ethiopia’s ambassador to France.
While in Addis, Macron will be joined by a delegation of businessmen. Ethiopia has quickly risen to become France’s third market in sub-Saharan Africa, with the largest trade surplus in the region at €791.6 million in 2017.
The French president will also visit the African Union (AU) headquarters, where he will discuss sustainable development.