France is the only European Union country with an Embassy in Bangui (where the EU also has a delegation). On the strength of its long-standing, strong relationship with the Central African Republic, France continues to support its elected authorities in their efforts to stabilize and sustainably develop the country. Multilaterally, France has fully supported the work of ECCAS and the AU and is working within the framework of the United Nations Security Council. Within the EU, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the European Commission instigated the creation of the first European development multi-donor fund for emergencies and development, the Bêkou Trust Fund, in July 2014, making it possible to swiftly adopt and implement projects in the sectors of health, food security, urban infrastructure and economic and social recovery. It is currently financed to the level of €226 million.
Lastly, France supports the Central African Republic vis-à-vis international financial institutions (obtaining the completion point of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative in 2009, and an IMF Extended Credit Facility, Peacebuilding Commission, etc.).
The frequency of bilateral visits reflects the intensity of our relations. The last presidential visit dates back to 2016; the President of the French Republic, François Hollande, travelled to Bangui on 10 December 2013, 28 February 2014 and 13 May 2016. Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, visited Bangui on 1 and 2 November 2018. The Minister for the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, travelled to the CAR on 10 and 11 December 2018. President Touadéra made a working visit to France on 19 and 20 April 2016, 20 March and 25 September 2017 and 8 March 2018. Jean-Marc Ayrault represented France at President Touadéra’s inauguration ceremony on 30 March 2016. He was accompanied by the French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who travelled to the CAR five times in 2014 and again on 31 October 2016. His predecessor, Laurent Fabius, travelled there on 13 October 2013 and 23 January 2014.
Commercial relations between France and the Central African Republic suffered from the crisis. Trade remains limited and there are few French companies, but France, which has a long-standing presence in many sectors, remains the leading investor in the country. Despite successive crises and sometimes heavy financial losses, there are currently over 20 French companies based in the CAR in structuring sectors such as Orange, Air France, Bolloré (logistics and river freight), Castel (drinks and sugar), Somdiaa (sugar), Total (storage and distribution of oil products). They make a considerable contribution to the national economy.
France granted over €76 million in civilian assistance in 2014-2016, in addition to military spending (Sangaris and bilateral support for EU, EUFOR, EUMAM and EUTM operations, as well as the AU – MISCA and the UN – MINUSCA). Beyond humanitarian assistance and electoral support, special emphasis has been place on democratic governance by building State capacities in key sectors (security, economy, finance, justice, territorial administration). During the donors’ conference in Brussels on 17 November 2016, France announced €85 million in assistance over three years, including €15 million for the “Bêkou” fund, strengthening its position as the leading bilateral donor. It indicated that it will channel its assistance towards support for governance, the fight against economic vulnerabilities, the production of services for populations, including education and healthcare, as well as capacities for coordinating and implementing assistance by the Central African State. France donated €35 million in 2017 and €33 million in 2018, without counting its contributions via the European Union, MINUSCA and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
In order to protect civilians from the cycle of very serious violence, France deployed Operation Sangaris from 5 December 2013, supporting the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA). In response to a request from the Central African Republic’s authorities, the French operation (which involved up to 2,000 troops) was carried out under a mandate conferred by UN Security Council resolution 2,127. Four French soldiers were killed in action. Sangaris ended on 31 October 2016, but French soldiers are participating in the EU Training Mission (EUTM) and are present within the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).