Macron pledges support to boost food production in Africa

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — France will help some African nations increase food production as Russia’s war in Ukraine is responsible for global food and fuel shortages that are causing untold suffering across the continent, French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday.

Speaking at a news conference in Yaounde after talks with Cameroon President Paul Biya, Macron said he’s particularly concerned that the consequences of the war will be felt more in Africa where food and fuel shortages have led to unprecedented price increases.

“European economic sanctions on Russia that are now affecting Africa are intended to stop Russia’s attack of Ukraine’s sovereignty and not to punish Africans,” Macron said. “France will assist African countries to face the shocks caused by the war by encouraging local investments in agriculture to increase food production.”

Macron didn’t specify how much funding France would earmark, but said Cameroon is one of the countries selected for such assistance.

The French president said he fully backs a call by other European Union leaders for Russia to “immediately stop targeting Ukrainian agricultural facilities and to permit the export of Ukrainian grain.”

Macron is on the first leg of his tour of three African nations that also includes Benin and Guinea Bissau.

The EU is finalizing plans to mobilize $634 million to support countries affected by Russia’s war in Ukraine, he said, calling for more efforts by Western countries to support Africa in copying with the consequences of the crisis.

The United Nations said that Africa depends on Russia and Ukraine for more than 50 percent of its wheat imports.

Yaounde University economist Yves Tsala said Macron is also looking to gain more support from African nations at the U.N. Eight African countries, including Cameroon, abstained during a U.N. emergency session earlier this year in a vote for a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Macron said France will not relent in its efforts to stop Boko Haram and the spread of jihadist ideology, and that France will give military assistance if requested.

Attacks by the Islamic extremist rebels have resulted in the death of thousands of people and the displacement of 2 million in Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon during the group’s 10-year insurgency. The central African state also faces separatist conflicts that have killed at least 3,300 people and displaced more than 750,000 in 5 years according to the U.N.

Biya said he’s pleased with France’s pledges for assistance, adding that living conditions will improve in Africa once terrorism is dealt with and western countries negotiate an end to the war in Ukraine.

“France has agreed to assist not only Cameroon but the entire African continent to fight against security threats and I am happy about that,” Biya said. “Support from France will enable Cameroon to totally destroy Boko Haram.”

Biya said he’s pursuing dialogue to end the separatist crisis in Cameroon, where English-speaking regions seek political autonomy.

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