France-Africa summit opens in shadow of Nelson Mandela's death

A two-day summit that has brought 40 African leaders to France opened here on Friday against the sombre backdrop of a world in mourning over the death of Nelson Mandela.

Flags above the presidential Elysee Palace were flying at half-mast and participants were to observe a minute's silence in memory of the hero of the anti-apartheid struggle.

French President Francois Hollande and South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane were both to pay tribute to Mandela in speeches during the opening session.

The summit is meant to focus on security and economic issues and will be followed by discussions on Saturday on the crisis in the Central African Republic.

France has deployed 1,200 troops to its former colony to back up a larger African force that will attempt to stabilise a country in danger of being engulfed by sectarian violence.