The President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, has already returned to his official residence at the Elysee Palace in Paris, after his five-day tour of Gabon, Angola, Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), The countries he visited to build a “new, balanced, reciprocal and responsible” relationship, as he put it.
Macron’s tour of the four Central African countries from March 1-5 was aimed at reorienting and improving deteriorating Franco-African relations, which he admitted, “So far I have focused on the military and security field.”
Macron wants to “Africanize” his main permanent military bases in Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon and Senegal and turn them into “academies” or “mixed bases”. He also intends to carry out a “significant reduction” of his forces on the continent, which official sources estimate at about 3,000 soldiers deployed in the three countries mentioned above, and the same number in the Sahel region.
Accompanied by a large delegation of businessmen, Macron’s stay in two former French colonies (Gabon and Congo), a Portuguese (Angola) and a Belgian (DRC) colony helped strengthen relations at all levels, To increase the investments of French companies and, as far as possible, to counter the growing influence of China and Russia in the four countries.
On the economic front, his visit to Angola on March 3 and his meeting with President Joao Lourenco – who has just turned 69 and has been in power since September 2017 – served as the backdrop to the signing by Airbus has signed a contract with the government of Luanda to develop what will be the first Angolan Earth observation satellite.
European Observation Satellite and Russian Communications Satellite
Macron calls Angola and its oil a “strategic partner,” which has led to a government agreement under which Airbus Space Systems France will build a high-tech photovoltaic satellite at its Toulouse plant. Called Angeo-1, it will, once in orbit and operational at an undisclosed date, be the most advanced of its kind in the region.
Angeo-1 is based on the S250 platform, which is part of a new family of monitoring devices developed by Airbus Space Systems, whose director since June 2019 is the Frenchman Jean-Marc Nasr. This new group of spacecraft was unveiled in February 2020 and aims to deliver small satellites ready for delivery to customers in third countries.
Angeo-1 weighs about 300 kilograms and will be used by Angolan authorities for government applications, both civil, security and defense, as it provides an accuracy of 50 centimeters. With the level of detail that the images will provide, it will be possible to monitor borders, estimate agricultural production and deforestation, control urban planning, and manage precious mineral resources and oil spills with public services.
The contract was signed between the Angolan Minister of Communications, Information Technology and Social Communication, Mario Augusto da Silva Oliveira, and the CEO of Airbus Space Systems, Jean-Marc Nasr, It provides for the training of at least 15 Angolan technicians to operate Angeo-1 and the training of a core group of engineers specializing in aerospace technologies.
President Joao Lourenco and his government have a vision for the future and clear space ambitions. Proof of this is the recent launch of the AngoSat-2 communication satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on October 12, 2022. The satellite’s control center, which was manufactured by Russia’s state-owned company Reshetnev, is located in Fonda, about 45 kilometers from the capital, Luanda.
Macron in four African countries, Margarita Robles in Mali
AngoSat-2 is based on the Russian Ekspress-1000N platform, weighs about 2 tons and has 31 transmitters in the C, Ku and Ka bands.. It replaces the failed 1.65-tonne AngoSat-1, which was built by Russia’s RKK Energia but equipped by Airbus Space Systems with 22 C- and Ku-band transponders. It was launched on 26 December 2017 also from Baikonur but on a Ukrainian Zenit-3F rocket, it suffered a fatal anomaly that prevented it from entering service.
Before leaving on his African tour, Macron said in a speech on February 27 that France “has a destiny linked to the African continent, and if we know how to seize it, we have the possibility of establishing ourselves on this continent.” He added that Africa “It will gradually become one of the youngest and most dynamic economic markets in the world and one of the main centers of global growth in the coming decades.”
The Paris government’s new strategy stresses that African countries must formulate “very clearly their military and security needs,” on the basis of which France will increase its offer of training, support and equipment at the highest level. Macron stressed that “we come (to Africa) to defend our interests, and we will do so with respect for the interests of the African countries in which we are deployed.”
President Emmanuel Macron’s tour of Gabon, Angola, Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo coincided with the two-day visit of Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles to Mali. Its objective was to see on site the progress of the Spanish contingent attached to the European Union Training Force (EUTM-Mali), thanks to which the Spanish Army would provide the Malian Army with military training and advice on command and control, logistics and human resources management.
Accompanied by the Director of its Technical Office, General Pablo Guillen, the Chief of Defense Staff, Admiral Teodoro López Calderón, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director of the National Intelligence Center, Esperanza Casteleiro, Robles met with Army General Santiago Fernandez Ortiz-Ribiso and his team at the headquarters of the European Union Mission in Mali in Bamako. The Minister was informed in detail of the status of the Spanish contingent which provides 334 soldiers for the EU mission, 75% of the multinational personnel.
Minister Robles and her delegation, along with Spanish Ambassador Jose Hornero, also met with Malian Defense Minister Sadio Camara, To share their thoughts on the future of the EU Mission in Mali, which is increasingly being called into question.