President Macron in Ethiopia: Historic Lalibela trip, deals signed in Addis Ababa

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Addis Abeba yesterday for a two-day official visit upon the invitation of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. This is Emmanuel Macron’s first state visit to Ethiopia.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Emmanuel Macron visited together the Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the Amhara regional state.

Ethiopia and France also signed their first military cooperation accord yesterday, a deal that includes helping the nation build a navy, as Paris seeks to boost economic ties in Africa’s second-most populous country.
Macron wants to leverage a mixture of Paris’ soft power in culture and education and its military know-how to give it a foothold at a time when Ethiopia is opening up.

“This unprecedented defense cooperation agreement provides a framework… and notably opens the way for France to assist in establishing an Ethiopian naval component,” Macron told a news conference alongside Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The accord also provides for air cooperation, joint operations and opportunities for training and equipment purchases. “We are here in a friendly country where we want to strengthen and build a new page in our common history,” Macron said. “Since you became prime minister our vision of Ethiopia has profoundly changed.”

He and Prime minister Abiy also signed deals to develop Ethiopia’s cultural heritage, including preserving churches and opening an archaeological dig at a 12th-century village. Paris will provide 100 million euros to help the country’s economic transition.

Macron was accompanied by a delegation of businesspeople, including the chief executive of telecommunications group Orange, Stephane Richard, who is looking to position the company ahead of Ethiopia’s privatization of the sector. A 50-strong French business delegation is due in Addis on Friday.

Today, President Macron will also meet with President Sahle-Work Zewde for talks on bilateral and regional issues of mutual benefit to the peoples of the two countries. France and Ethiopia countries have enjoyed strong diplomatic relations since 1897.