Geopolitical and economic Africa in the eyes of Moscow

Geopolitical and economic Africa in the eyes of Moscow

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Researcher Shatha Khalil *

Translated by : mudhaffar al-kusairi

Africa is one of the oldest continents of the globe, and possesses great natural and human resources, it is at the center of the continents of the ancient world, and is the second continent in the world area, with an area of about 30 million km2

Africa’s 54 countries have common characteristics, but they differ widely in area and are rich in economic resources, qualifying their countries to have status that is radically different from what its now.

Although it is a huge continent, with a population density of 22 people per km2, and two-thirds of the population of the African continent live on agriculture, but this density in agricultural land reaches 163 people per km2, and the average rate of population increase on the continent is about 2.9% annually, this puts population pressure on agricultural land and drives young people to migrate to cities even if jobs are poor.

African Economic Resources
Although Africa was one of the first regions to be discovered by Europeans, it was, in fact, the last to be discovered in terms of the appreciation of its natural wealth, with the European focus initially limited to the transport of slaves from the African continent across the Atlantic to the New World in the Americas, the colonial powers, in their colonial domination of Africa, began to pay attention to the vast undiscovered wealth of the continent and its mineral and agricultural resources , noting that since the colonial domination in line with the Belgian domination over the free Congo state , the goal was to take advantage from the riches of this region.
What are Russia’s ambitions in Africa?
The Soviet Union had considerable influence on the black continent, but its political and economic impact had receded in the post-Cold War era, but for some time it had begun to expand in Africa through military contracts betting that it would help it establish itself on the African continent against the American Pole and Western influence. .

As we know, the United States has a strong military presence in Africa, represented by the US military command known as AFRICOM, a unit of unified combat forces under the Pentagon command. This force is primarily responsible for US military operations, and for military relations with 53 countries in Africa except Egypt, which is under US Central Command.

AFRICOM was established on October 1, 2007 as a temporary command under US command for Europe.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin pursued a new strategy of restoring his country’s regional and international role after the weakness and retreat of the Russian role following the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Moscow views Africa as a vital geopolitical and economic area in the face of Western influence, prompting it to move to secure a foothold through military and economic agreements.

In its latest move in this vital area, Russia has concluded an agreement with Congo to send Moscow military equipment maintenance experts to Brazzaville in the context of strengthening the Russian presence in Africa.

Russian-African Summit:
Russia has spent $ 70 million to host the Russia-Africa summit alongside the Russia-Africa Economic Forum, setting a foothold on the continent, betting on Washington’s trade wars against Beijing, which represented a golden opportunity for the Russian bear to infiltrate and penetrate deep into Africa.

This is the first Russian-African forum on this level in history, which mainly discusses the economic aspects of cooperation. Putin said: “The Russian-African relations are flourishing and we are providing services to Africa in the form of:
• Political and diplomatic support.
• Security and defense assistance.
• Economic assistance.
• Disease control expertise.
• Humanitarian assistance.
• Educational and craft training.
When we look at the scale of economic cooperation between Russia and the African continent, the figures themselves are huge, alarming, and frightening for Western partners and China. The issue is that Russia’s penetration, due to a number of circumstances, over the past five to seven years has been more effective than decades of new western colonialism and the generous distribution of funds by Beijing. This success has created by some purely Russian practices in Africa, purely humanitarian moments, which clearly reflect the priority of politics or the economy , so far, military-political influence, according to the concept of “stability first, profit second”, performs proactive steps forward, while large-scale economic projects should produce tangible results in the near future or will be a dead letter.

All reports confirmed that Russia ranks first in supplying weapons to sub-Saharan countries, and the slogan of the current summit can be seen “for peace, security and development”. Interestingly, earlier this year was called the “Year of Africa for the Russian military-technical cooperation system.”

Russian companies will make a series of preliminary offers to Africa. Kenya wants to supply Russia with mango, avocado, flowers and tea. Ivory Coast wants to export minerals, cocoa, meat and fish to Russia. Russia, for its part, will deliver 11 mobile plague diagnostic laboratories in Madagascar and open a language promotion center in Gabon and the Russian Ministry of Education signed agreements in the field of science, education and culture with 13 African countries, while about 17 thousand African students receive education in Russia, this number doubled from the number ten years ago.

“Africa is now in the same position as China in the 1990s, like the tiger ready to jump,” said Cambridge University economist Ha Jun Chang. “For Russia, the idea of returning to Africa is the basic idea behind the summit; this idea was announced in many political discussions and expert dialogues.

Why the rapid growth of Russian influence in Africa?
Vladimir Putin said that strengthening relations with African countries is one of Russia’s foreign policy priorities, while US National Security Adviser John Bolton announced last year about a new US plan in Africa, aimed primarily at fighting the influence of Russia and China, and that Russia was “seriously looking for security agreements and relations,” while US influence in the region continued to decline.

In the 1990s, Russia lost interest in the African continent .In 1992, Moscow closed nine embassies, four consulates and a large number of cultural centers in Africa .For ten years, Russian leaders never visited Africa until 2005, when Putin visited Egypt.

He said that when returning to Africa, Russia should compete with the United States and China, each of which has dominated the region notinh that the Africa’s trade with the United States is estimated at $ 61 billion, three times that of Russia, and China’s trade at 204 billion. China has begun organizing Sochi-style conferences with African leaders since 2006.In 2018, about 150 cooperation agreements were signed, and 28 other countries joined the China project “One Belt One Road” project.

Russian economic objectives of influence in Africa include:
• Russia suffers from a shortage of minerals such as manganese, bauxite and chromium, all important for industry.
. It also has experience in the energy sector, which can be transferred to resource-rich countries, and diamond mining is the top Russian projects in Africa.
• Russian companies are currently exploring bauxite in Guinea, signing diamond deals in Angola and obtaining shale gas approvals from Mozambique.
. It is reported that the Russian energy giant company, Lukoil, has launched projects in Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria, and is looking to get deals in Congo
. Russia has the expertise of nuclear energy technology for a number of African countries, including the establishment of the first nuclear reactor in Egypt next year, with a loan of $ 25 billion.

As for Russian military relations:
Russia is an important defense partner in Africa and is the region’s largest arms supplier, but globally, Africa is not the largest market for Russian weapons, as Asia surpasses it.

Between 2014 and 2018, Russia’s arms imports to Africa (excluding Egypt) accounted for 17% of total Russian imports, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The question remains: Is economic cooperation balanced between Moscow and Africa, or is Moscow using its twisted methods in an attempt to restore the influence and dominance of the former colonies in a new dress, and accelerated to maximize profits and exploitation of the continent?

Economic Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies