Canada's prime minister will promote trade with economically rising Africa when he makes his third visit to the continent on Wednesday for a major summit for the French-speaking world.
Stephen Harper was last in Africa in 2007 for a meeting of Commonwealth leaders.
On this trip he will seek first to develop "more robust commercial ties" with the West African nation of Senegal when he meets with President Macky Sall, Harper's spokesman Andrew MacDougall told a media briefing.
Harper will travel to the war-torn but mineral-rich Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday for the 14th Francophonie summit, a biennial gathering of French-speaking countries taking place October 12-14 in Kinshasa.
His tour will mark the third high-level visit by Canadian officials to key African countries this week.
Canada's renewed emphasis on African countries as fast-growing trade partners, not merely aid recipients, comes as the region emerges as the world's second-fastest growing, nipping at Asia's heels.
Africa is seeing less conflicts and coups, as democracy takes hold in some of the region's countries, as was seen in Senegal in March when long-ruling president Abdoulaye Wade accepted defeat in a general election and immediately stepped down.
Senegal's presidential election marked a "victory for democracy in the region," MacDougall said. "It's a country that has made great democratic and economic strides."
The peaceful and democratic transition is encouraging foreign investment in the region. Canada is currently negotiating free trade agreements with 22 Francophonie member and observer countries, many of them African.
Harper and Senegal's new president, Macky Sall, are expected to discuss how the food crisis in the Sahel and the militants' hold on Mali could trigger "greater instability in the region," MacDougall said.
Canada still has serious concerns about "the worsening security situation" in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and human rights violations there, MacDougall said.
But Ottawa is hopeful for a turnaround.
"This is a region that has been beset by instability for many years now... But the (DRC) government has made some encouraging noises about the need for progress," MacDougall said.
Harper will meet with civil society groups in Kinshasa to discuss his concerns.
Associate Minister of National Defense Bernard Valcourt was also in the Democratic Republic of Congo in June to register Canada's hopes for progress on the security and democracy fronts.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird visited Nigeria on Monday to meet with businessmen and sign a foreign investment accord.
And Tanzania's Jakaya Kikwete last week was the first sub-Saharan African president since 2005 to get a full state welcome in Ottawa, where he signed an investment accord with Canada.
On the sidelines of the Francophonie summit, Harper will meet face to face with Quebec Premier Pauline Marois for the first time since her separatist party's election victory on September 4.
"I don't see any big confrontations" with Marois, said MacDougall, disavowing predictions of a mash-up. The Quebec leader has "vowed not to bring up domestic issues at the summit," he noted.
Marois was elected promising to split from Ottawa's position on a number of fronts, including in the energy and mining sectors, as she looks to position her French-speaking province to eventually become independent from the rest of Canada.© ANP/AFP