Around 100 Togolese soldiers have arrived in Mali’s capital Bamako.
They are part of a deployment of West African forces sent to help Malian and French soldiers fight the Islamist insurgency in the country’s north.
Nigeria, which is expected to lead the African troops, has sent around 160 soldiers and committed to a total of 900.
Colonel Eric of the French army praised the arrival of the first soldiers: “For us it it is important. It shows that France is not alone and it shows that ECOWAS and the African countries are making the effort to help Mali out of this situation.”
France is keen to ultimately hand over the mission to Africa’s ECOWAS bloc, which secured a United Nations mandate in December for a 3,300 strong mission in Mali.
The rebels’ push into central Mali was stalled last week by France’s intervention, which has included both air strikes and the deployment of ground troops.
But French officials say their forces have been facing fiercer resistance than they expected.