Russia’s presence in Africa has returned to the fore. The first-ever Russia-Africa summit, held in Sochi on 23-24 October 2019, sparked international attention, raising questions about Russia’s new Africa strategy. Titles as diverse as “The new scramble for Africa” and “Russia-Africa summit a great opportunity for Africa” started to pop up in the international press, highlighting different dimensions and, above all, assessments of Moscow’s initiative.
In February 2018, in the midst of ongoing political turmoil, few could have predicted the radical political change of direction Ethiopia would experience within a matter of weeks. The election in March 2018 of Abiy Ahmed as Chairman of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and consequently the country’s Prime Minister heralded the beginning of a major shift in leadership style and approach in one of Africa’s most authoritarian polities.
On November 12, French president Emmanuel Macron and his Chadian counterpart, Idriss Déby, met in Paris, at the Peace Forum. Faced with the urgency of the situation in the Sahel, where the G5 military forces (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) have just suffered a major setback with the death of 50 Malian soldiers during a terrorist attack, France seems more than ever to rely on Chad and its army to restore security.
As the first-ever Russia-Africa summit made headlines around the world in the past few weeks, the comparison between the Russian and the Chinese approach to Africa was recurrent. It originated in the fact that both China and Russia are not Western countries, both have seemingly ‘returned’ to Africa in the 21st century for economic and political reasons, both advocate a non-interference approach in the internal affairs of other countries and both are perceived as great powers in international relations.
The Russia-Africa summit hosted at the Black Sea retreat of Sochi, with the participation of 43 African heads of state, marked the culminating point of the Kremlin’s renewed interest in the African continent and its political and economic assets.
Russia’s presence in Africa has returned to the fore. The first-ever Russia-Africa summit, held in Sochi on 23-24 October 2019, sparked international attention, raising questions about Russia’s new Africa strategy.
The language of empire strikes back. Against the backdrop of China’s growing influence on the African continent and the attempts of other great powers to counter Beijing’s sway, Western news outlets have, in the last eighteen months, seized on comparisons between these current rivalries and those of the nineteenth-century colonial era. The Economist led the way with its headline “The New Scramble for Africa.”
On 17 August the historic signing of the Political Agreement and Constitutional Declaration by the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) paved the way for Sudan’s political transition. A joint civilian-military Sovereign Council and a transitional government, led by senior economist and former deputy executive of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), prime minister Abdalla Hamdock, will lead the transition.
The African continent has been increasingly in the sights of many global actors such as China, the United States of America, the European Union, Turkey, Japan, India and, more recently, the Russian Federation. The successor to the Soviet Union is not a new actor in Africa, but relations deteriorated with the collapse of the USSR at the end of the Cold War. Its renewed engagement, through its “Pivot to Africa” has been more niched, focusing in the areas of security, weapons trade, oil and gas.
In recent years, Russian president Vladimir Putin has increasingly placed a high premium on re-building Russia’s global influence in Africa.