France is likely to welcome a more robust South African military presence on the continent.
The situation in Mali and in the "chaotic" Central African Republic (CAR), where 15 South African soldiers were killed earlier this year, are likely to be high on the agenda when French President François Hollande visits South Africa on October 14 and 15.
Hollande's visit will be the first by a French head of state to South Africa in five years. Several ministers, including the Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius, will accompany him.
France is the ninth-biggest investor in South Africa, and it has sizeable business interests in the country. Its military presence in Africa and joint concerns over crises in Francophone African countries is likely to top the agenda.
France sent more than 3000 peacekeepers to Mali in January to drive out Islamist rebels from the north of the country, but has since handed over the peacekeeping role to a United Nations force made up mainly of African soldiers.
However, the security situation in Mali is still precarious. This week, a car bomb killed at least two people in Timbuktu and fighting broke out in the northern city of Kidal.
Some African countries were upset that France had been asked by the government in Bamako to intervene militarily, just as it had done in 2011 in neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire, but they couldn't do much about it.
President Jacob Zuma said at the time that he was satisfied with the French deployment, and that Hollande had phoned him ahead of the military intervention to explain France's position.
Relations between France and South Africa hit a historic low in 2011 after the French-led intervention by Nato forces in Libya.
Although South Africa voted in favour of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which authorised the intervention against former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, it believed Nato acted outside of its mandate.
During a visit to South Africa in November 2011, former French foreign minister Alain Juppé was strongly criticised for the intervention and accused of leading "regime change" in Libya.
Tense relations between France and South Africa have existed ever since, and were aggravated by accusations that France had urged Francophone African countries to vote against Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's bid to become African Union (AU) chairperson last year. France strongly denied this.
Dlamini-Zuma narrowly defeated the Francophone former Gabonese chairperson Jean Ping.
Currently, however, Hollande's main preoccupation in Africa is the CAR, which has descended into chaos and thuggery since the coup against former president François Bozizé in March.
France convened a special meeting of role-players in the CAR on the margins of the UN general assembly in New York last week, saying the country poses a security threat to the entire region. France pledged €10-million to help what Fabius called a "nonexistent state".
The CAR is strategically placed in that it borders several problem states, including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan. Hundreds of people have been killed since the takeover by the Chadian-backed Seleka rebels in a situation Human Rights Watch calls "horrific".
In a recent report, the organisation said that Seleka rebels were looting and torturing civilians on a massive scale, causing an unpre-cedented humanitarian crisis in the country.
A security expert told the Mail & Guardian that France's troops in the CAR, who control the Bangui airport, are there "to protect their own interests". French troops helped to evacuate the remaining South Africans troops who fled after being defeated by the Seleka rebels during the March coup.
About another 1400 other African peacekeepers are left in the country, but they are largely powerless. Plans are in place to swell the ranks to about 3500 troops.
"They are very ineffective, they need political direction and they need to be transformed into a UN mission," the expert said. South Africa has indicated that it has no intention of going back to Bangui.
Following the CAR debacle and the French intervention in Mali, Zuma urged the AU to beef up its efforts for an African intervention force that can be rapidly deployed in crisis situations.
South African and Tanzanian troops were deployed as the so-called Force Intervention Brigade, with a strong UN mandate, in early June in the eastern DRC.
The intervention force has proved largely successful and has driven the M23 rebels out of key positions.
Despite its rivalry with South Africa in other parts of the continent, France is likely to welcome a more robust South African military presence in Africa. French public opinion is not keen to see more money being spent on operations such as those in Mali and in Côte d'Ivoire.
France and South Africa do work closely together on issues such as fighting piracy in the Indian Ocean.
The two countries have also recently, for the first time, seen eye to eye on the crisis in Madagascar. Previously, France was seen as supporting the coup leader, Andry Rajoelina, who took power in 2009, whereas South Africa insisted on the reinstatement of deposed president Marc Ravalomanana.
After years of failed mediation efforts, both leaders have now been excluded from elections, which are scheduled to be held on October 25.