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Macron Begins Africa Tour

FILE - French President Emmanuel Macron waves to journalists as he welcomes Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 22, 2022.

French President Emmanuel Macron embarked on a three-nation tour of Africa Monday in an effort to signal that the continent is high priority for the former colonial power.

The four-day visit to Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau is the French leader’s first diplomatic trip outside of Europe since winning re-election.

Macron plans to address common challenges such as the fight against terrorism and combating climate change.

The French president will also discuss the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine, such as ballooning inflation and the cost of living and a likely food crisis due to halts on Ukraine’s key exports of wheat, barley and sunflower oil. Russia and Ukraine provide over 40% of Africa’s wheat supply.

Agreements to unblock Ukraine's grain exports were concluded in Turkey between Moscow, Ankara, Kyiv and the U.N. last week. But several Russian missiles struck the Port of Odesa shortly after the deals were signed.

Macron's visit is seen as shoring up bilateral cooperation for France at a time when Russian officials have also been visiting African nations in moves to rally support.

France has shown particular concern over links in the wider African region — including in the Central African Republic and Mali — to the Russian paramilitary organization the Wagner Group that is seen by the European Union as a destabilizing force.

In his first stop in Cameroon — central Africa’s biggest economy and an agricultural hub — Macron will discuss food production and how the country will try to fill the Ukraine-linked supply vacuum in the region.

In Benin, where he will arrive Wednesday, Macron will discuss ways to combat an increase in terrorist threats and to prevent it from spilling into countries in the Gulf of Guinea.

While in Guinea-Bissau, Macron's final stop Thursday, he will explore plans to build a French school on local government designated land.

Macron hopes to build on the roadmap set out at February’s EU-Africa Summit for increased European Union investment in African infrastructure and agriculture.