YAOUNDE - French President Emmanuel Macron started a three-leg Africa tour in Cameroon in Tuesday, a trip meant to strengthen political ties with the continent and help boost agricultural production amid growing food insecurity linked to the war in Ukraine.
The mineral-rich central African nation is a major food producer for the region and Macron's delegation will seek investment opportunities in the agricultural sector.
He will meet Cameroon's President Paul Biya in the capital Yaounde, as well as the French community and civil society representatives.
Many African nations are facing food and energy security issues due to their dependence on Russian grain and energy, but they also buy Ukrainian grain that has been disrupted by the conflict.
African governments have largely avoided taking sides and refused to join Western condemnation and sanctions over Russia's behaviour.
But anti-French sentiment is rising in France's former West African colonies, where security concerns and political instability following a string of coups are stoking frustration and swinging public opinion in favour of Russia.
The trip - Macron's first in Africa since his re-election in April - coincides with visits by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer to different countries across the continent.
Cameroon is grappling with sharp increases in prices for oil, fertiliser and foodstuffs. Severe fuel shortages hit the capital Yaounde last week leading to long queues at petrol stations.
The country is also battling Boko Haram insurgents in the north near the Nigerian border, while English-speaking separatists in two Anglophone regions in the west have taken up arms against the government since 2017.
Macron will head to Benin on Wednesday and Guinea-Bissau on Thursday.
(Reporting by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Bate Felix and Alison Williams)